I am an enthusiast of nearly all of the world's sauvignon blancs, but if forced to pick my absolute favorite, it would be those from New Zealand. Often possessing striking aromatics, along with mouthwatering acidity, these whites are among my most beloved and most purchased.
Grown in relatively cool, often maritime climates, New Zealand sauvignon blancs are also relatively new to the wine world, having only been around for a blink of an eye compared to France's versions. Even with the dollar's decline, they are also outstanding values, with most selling for less than $18 . . . it's a challenge to find one over $25.
Congratulations are in order to Andy, for his first ever win at these tastings. The competition was stiff, but his bottle showed the most balance and overall harmony of flavors. Every wine received some points, and second and third place were separated by only one point.
Personally, I was a little surprised by some of the results, but the tasting showed once again that "the brown bag never lies".
First Place: Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc 2004 (Marlborough). Clear, bright hue. Very aromatic, offering pineapple, mango, lime, grass, and green apple aromas. Perfumed and expressive. Kristin enjoyed the attack, but Stephen felt it was a bit too acidic. Notes of fresh herbs and peaches, along with a lingering finish. Exhibited the most harmony and integration of flavors. Received 29 total points. Andy's bottle. A very good value at $15.
Second Place: Nobilo "Icon" Sauvignon Blanc 2003 (Marlborough). Offers aromas of papaya, smoke, and Bubblicious gum. Andy suggested that it "smells like the color pink", and Ali astounded us with her knowledge of Pink songs. On the palate, the wine is herbal, with pink grapefruit, pepper, mushrooms, and earthiness. Not as brightly acidic, and the most yellow in color. David detected some wood aging in this one, while Sarah noted a "metallic twinge". Received 24 points. David's bottle. About $17.
Third Place: Brancott Sauvignon Blanc Reserve 2003 (Marlborough). Very aromatic, with grapefruit, grass, pencil shavings, moss, wood, cinnamon, and earth. Ali found traces of body odor in the aroma, along with "cinnamon and sugar with apples". David really enjoyed the nose for its complexity. Flavors of red apple, lime, oranges, nutmeg and rhubarb. Ali thought it was just plain weird, and Sarah added a "weird earwax taste" to the list of descriptors. Finish was persistent. Received 23 points. Kristin's bottle. About $17.
Hunters Sauvignon Blanc 2003 (Marlborough). Revealed a nose of pepper, wax, aluminum, grass, fresh herbs, tomato, chalk, and hints of butter. Kristin described it as "tomato soup". Syrupy in texture, and not as overtly fruity as the others. Tasters described a slightly smoky quality, along with stainless steel. Ali remarked that it was "like I'm licking the vat it was aged in", and ultimately hated it, saying that "it hurts". Received 7 points. Sarah's bottle. About $17.
Seresin Sauvignon Blanc 2003 (Marlborough). A shy nose, reminiscent of fresh herbs, grapefruit, apples and lemon balm. Tasted more of citrus fruits than of tropical fruits, along with smoke and red apple. Soapy, sour aftertaste. Not as bright or as balanced as some of the others. Tasters felt it was a little thin on the palate, with Ali deciding that "it falls on its little yellow face". Received 4 points. Ali's bottle. The most expensive bottle of the night, at $22.50.
Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc 2004 (Marlborough). Clear straw color. Aromatics of grapefruit, mango, red licorice, grass, fresh herbs, celery, tomato plant and flowers. Highly herbal and vegetal, like green bell pepper and tomatillo. Exhibited a brightness that Andy described as "a little sparkle on the tongue". Sarah offered up the description of "like papaya brulee", and Ali noted a touch of sweetness. This appeared more simple compared to the others. Received 3 points. Stephen's bottle (of course). About $15.
Two Spanish wines, not tasted blind:
Condado de Haza 2001 (Ribera Del Duero). Offered a nose of caramel, oak, black licorice, flowers, mushrooms, leather, dried herbs, and cedar. Lacking in the mid-palate. Nobody was crazy about this red. About $24.
Capcanes Mas Donis 2001 (Montsant). A blend of 80% old vine Grenache and 20% Syrah. Exhibited aromas and flavors of brown sugar, fig, mulberry, prune, dark cherry, black licorice and wood. By this time, our palates were shot. About $12.