(2019) With 190g/l of residual sugar, this is a fully sweet, Botrytis-affected dessert wine, which comes in a half bottle. Fermentation and ageing was in a combination of new and old French oak barrels. Light gold in colour, gentle Botrytis aromas without any overt Sauvignon character. The palate is glycerine-rich, with plenty of honey and lime marmalade flavour, some apricotty fruit too, then a clean, zesty finish of lemon and lime.
(2019) Though I strenuously avoid 'tall poppy syndrom' - taking a swipe at a best-selling wine, just because it is best-selling - there is still a tendency to overlook big selling brands and wines that appear to be consistent vintage after vintage, in favour of always seeking something new. Villa Maria are synoymous with Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, and produce a number of different cuvées, so they do tend to the ubiquitous: it's rare to visit a major retailer and not see at least one of their wines on the shelves - and often at a promotional price. So how to honestly assess this vintage of the Cellar Selection SB? It's really very good: more in the tropical and ripe spectrum than out-and-out herbaceous, yet there is enough elderflower and pea-shoot character to pin-point its roots precisely. In the mouth the sweet, ripe fruit sits atop grapefruity acidity that is tangy and juicy, the wine has a bit of texture and mouthfeel too giving a sense of richness, and it is intense and vibrant. A model Marlborough Sauvignon, with style. £10.99 as part of a mixed six at Majestic. Watch the video for more information.
(2018) Matt Thomson is one of New Zealand’s most respected consultant winemakers, behind numerous top labels, and now he and his wife Sophie Parker-Thomson have established Blank Canvas, a premium label sourcing fruit from top vineyards, like this single-vineyard Chardonnay, fermented with wild yeast and aged in large French oak barrels, around 40% of which were new. It’s so appealing, with a flinty mineral edge to cool orchard and lime fruit, given creamy intensity from the barrels. In the mouth there’s an unabashed ripeness of fruit, edging from succulent ripe pear and apple into more tropical nectarine notes, buttery Brazil nut creaminess beneath, and zipping-fresh lemon and salts acidity. A serious, top-end example of Kiwi Chardonnay. On offer at time of review for £22.90.
(2018) What a fabulous showing for all of the wines in the Blank Canvas range I must say. From a single vineyard in the Waihopai Valley of Marlborough, a large proportion of this was fermented as whole bunches of grapes, with wild yeasts, before ageing in French oak barriques. What an aromatic Pinot Noir, floral and herbal, bright cherry melts into a subtle earthy and nutty note, then the wine powers onto the palate: it as its seductive side for sure, with juicy, dense fruit, but there is light and air in this picture too, an edge to the firm tannins and the acidity, spice and subtle truffle character, and then a pristine finish almost like a white wine with its cool focus and length. Seriously good Pinot Noir this, multi-faceted and delicious. On offer at £23.95 at time of review.
(2018) From a single block in the southern valleys of Marlborough, matured 10 months in French oak, around 30% of which was new. This is a deep and black-fruited style of concentrated Pinot, 14% alcohol testifying to its ripeness and richness. On the nose a touch of charred meat, savoury dark fruit and, yes, just a glimpse of something more perfumed and floral in the background. On the palate it has a liquorice stripe of bittersweet fruit, tannin and crunchy acidity. The fruit develops nicely mid-palate to something more sweet and elegant. An impressive wine, that for me would be even better just reined-back slightly on oak, alcohol and extraction.
(2018) What a fascinating contrast with the Tinel-Blondelet Pouilly-Fumé also reviewed: that wine not short on vibrant personality, this one richly textured with a cool restraint, and yet each is beautifully expressive of its region and terroir. Partial ageing in older barrels has given this texture, but has not dulled the vivacious pin-sharp aromatics, gooseberry and a punch of pea-shoot freshness, and sweet nectarine fruit. The palate brims with exotic fruit, and yet there is fine acidity - not at all jarring - a natural concentration, and great balance. Will delight both classic European Sauvignon drinkers and fans of Kiwi exuberance in a clever marriage.
(2018) Yealands of Marlborough has become a well-known name in recent years, especially for Sauvignon Blanc, and there's a fun extra incentive to try this wine: buy a bottle before May 28th 2018 and you will find a unique code on a special neck collar. Enter that into the Yealands web site and you might just be one of four lucky people to win a trip for two to New Zealand, worth £10,000. That's all well and good, but what's the wine like? The answer, is really rather good. The requisite pea-shoot freshness is there, along with mango and lychee, but the tropicality is cut by lime. On the palate it presses all the Kiwi Sauvignon buttons, vibrant and juicy, loads of peach juice fruit and a sweep of acidity that gives this real zip and mouthwatering clarity too. It's a fine example showing a tad of restraint but no lack of personality. Watch the video for more details and food-matching ideas. Currently on offer at just £6.75 in Sainsbury's. Please note: the video lists Morrisons among the stockists, but that is incorrect. Also in some independent merchants.
(2018) Another wine that moves the story of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc on a page or two, from the organic certified and biodynamic vineyards of Seresin, fermented with wild yeasts and with a small proportion fermented in French oak, as well as having 5% Semillon in the blend. That speaks of an attempt to create a more layered wine with real dimension, and it succeeds. A little wild yeast funky and earthy character lies behind yellow plum and melon aromas, no more than a hint of grassiness. In the mouth the exotic opulence of the fruit shows through a little more, moving into papaya and nectarine, then a fine, racy, driving mineral acidity gives a bit of oomph to the finish. Not a simple quaffer, but not without its approachable charms. Watch the video for more information and food-matching ideas.
(2018) How fascinating to return to a wine I last reviewed 11 years ago, and which is another 'forgotten' bottle retrieved from my own cellar where it has lain quietly for over a decade. The colour is now much paler with a touch of warmth to the ruby core. Although it certainly has not stood still under screwcap in 11 years, it seems clearly to be the same wine, with the softening development I would hope for and expect. An autumnal, earthy and woodland character that is very Pinot Noir has joined the fruit, still in the cherry pie and spice spectrum, the creamy and slightly coffee-ish oak is still there but has also mellowed, and the nice sour orange acid framework sits very well to balance. I never intended to cellar this modestly-priced Pinot for 11 years, and arguably it may be on the down-slope now, but my word what a delightful discovery, giving plenty of enjoyment. Price and stockist quoted at time of review is for more current vintages.
(2018) As a lover of the Pinot Noir variety, some of my greatest wine experiences have been with very expensive Grand Cru wines of Burgundy, but I am always on the lookout for affordable and good Pinots for everyday drinking. Lidl's effort from Marlborough in New Zealand certainly fits the bill, its moderate to light colour being perfect for Pinot, and the dry, lightly briary nose of cranberry and spiced orange fitting the bill too. Very lightly chilled (or rather, not too warm) it offers a fine, juicy, lightly earthy and leafy genuine Pinot experience, avoiding some of the strawberry sweetness of many cheap examples. Watch the video for more information and food-matching ideas.