The Chosen leading the way


New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc has been evolving, not so quietly but not in the limelight either. Marlborough producers such as Ant Moore, Dog Point, Seresin, Framingham to name a few have been doing it openly and blatantly. Offering wine drinkers a more satisfying Sauvignon experience that is.

Cloudy Bay also did their job by launching the Te Koko 1996, a wild yeast, fully barrel fermented sauvignon blanc back in 1999. Today, the 2010 vintage is still showing its silky style setting best that is leaner allowing the smoky toast and minerals to wind through the passionfruit, apricot and cream.

This month Brancott Estate pre-launched their new hero Chosen Rows Sauvignon Blanc 2010 with a masterclass led by winemaker Patrick Materman. A sauvignon blanc that is Brancott’s response to the increasing desire to put a more food friendly, ageworthy face on Marlborough Savvy.

The world fell in love with the pristine fruit of Marlborough, clean and bright like the chilled stainless steel it is fermented in. For those in the ‘know’, it was a life raft in a big buttery sea of chardonnay.  Now in Australia, the tide of Marlborough sauvignon blanc is still surging despite the abandonment of many of the original early adopters for the style.

The launch this week is a welcome addition to the growing trickle of wines offering more substance and texture.  These richer styles offer a more savoury story.  Materman and his team have been working with the aim to make the Chosen Rows a wine that will reward time in the cellar.

When they began this, the ‘Icon Project’, back in 2008 they started with a trial using the grapes from 14 different blocks across Marlborough to find the best fruit to go into such an iconic wine. The results of this trial confirmed that the best parcels came from Brancott Vineyard, which has been the main source of fruit since this new release 2010 vintage. They have been also working on the effects of Thiols, aromatic compounds which change quickly in the bottle effecting ageworthiness and now look for aroma compounds that with develop in the cellar.

Chosen Rows also sees wild yeast ferment and at least nine months in contact with gross lees in a mixture of larger format oak. The result is more savoury aromas and flavours in the wine as well as giving the wine a silky texture in the mouth – no hard edges here. To reduce phenolics, the Brancott team use a Coquard Champagne press to gently press the grapes. A slow process taking up to four and half hours. The use of oak and lees, as well as lower phenolics also increase wine’s cellarability.

Having seen the freshness of the 2009 at four years old, these efforts look set to be a delicious candidate for the cellar. Although it is good drinking now and if you cannot wait up to a decade to see what all the fuss is about, here is a little preview:

Brancott Estate Chosen Rows Sauvignon Blanc 2010 ($70 available May 2013).  The pungent savoury aromas provide the backdrop for the ripe passionfruit, key lime pie and lemon balm that leaps from the glass. Silk rounds out sherberty acid which dances along the palate finishing dry and long with a sweep of passionfruit. Chosen Rows remains true to its Marlborough roots but this wine is distinctly part of the new guard.

Another surprise on the night was the Brancott Terroir Series Fume Blanc 2011 (NZ$35 at Cellar Door only).  They did not think the vintage was strong enough to deliver the required quality and so created this fume blanc style. Ever so silky and savoury spiced cream served with creamy pineapple and lemon tart. Long, generous & a much more food friendly wine than the typical Marlborough offering. Certainly would be a must have if you have the chance to pick up a bottle.

See Brancott Estate for more details.

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