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weren't an unmitigated success - 70% of the
first year's cuttings died; some were planted
upside down - but by 1979 Montana was in a
position to launch its first Sauvignon, a wine
with the signature clarity of flavour that
now defines the variety globally. A flurry of
planting followed and in 1985 Cloudy Bay
made its debut with a Sauvignon Blanc -
and a label - that captured the imagination
of wine-lovers worldwide.
Today, Marlborough is by far the
country's largest wine region (almost five
times the size of next biggest, Hawkes Bay)
and Sauvignon accounts for 85% of wine
exports. Most is in the familiar, crisp style,
but we're increasingly seeing other styles.
You'll find vinification and/or ageing
in oak to give depth, richness and ageing
potential. �ere's fermentation using
wild yeasts for even more complexity -
Greywacke Wild Sauvignon, Dog Point
Section 94 and Cloudy Bay Te Koko
are excellent examples. Some wines are
deliberately lower in alcohol (�e Doctors'
Sauvignon Blanc is persuasive at 9.5% abv),
in contrast to late-harvest, botrytis-affected
sweet Sauvignons (such as �e Ned Noble).
Regional differences have emerged, too.
Sauvignon Blanc from Wairau Valley, in
Marlborough where it all began, tends to
have a tropical or passion fruit note and
sometimes a light, salty streak, whereas the
cooler, drier Awatere to the south is more
herbal and crunchy. Beyond Marlborough,
Nelson Sauvignon is elegant and a little
more restrained; Central Otago has a
flinty/stony character; and Canterbury is
mineral, but a bit juicier than Otago. In the
North Island, Hawkes Bay, Gisborne and
Wairarapa are slightly less incisive with
riper stone fruit and tropical flavours.
�ere's also life beyond Sauvignon Blanc.
Chardonnay is number two in terms of
exports, but will soon be overtaken by
Pinot Noir, and Pinot Gris (aka Grigio) is
not far behind. �e annual vineyard survey
lists another 13 varieties, including Riesling
and Gewürztraminer among whites, and
Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah
"CHARDONNAY IS CURRENTLY
GIVING SOME OF NEW ZEALAND'S
SARAH KNOWLES MW