That said, there are still a number of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc wines that never fail to distinguish themselves including Craggy Range, Vavasour, Wairau, Ata Rangi,Villa Maria and of course Cloudy Bay, whose regular Sauvignon Blanc bottlings go well beyond straightforward racy fruit, showing texture, depth and a certain minerality.
We tasted through the Cloudy Bay wine range, the new 2011 Sauvignon Blanc (lively, juicy and thoroughly refreshing — almost a little too young?), the 2009 Chardonnay (delicious, subtle and refined) the 2009 Pinot Noir (vibrant, silky, minerally) and the 2006 Te Koko Sauvignon Blanc (read on.....).
While this was not my first encounter with Te Koko, it stopped me in my tracks. This wine is all about texture, minerality, complexity and what I can only describe as a free spirit, a wine telling its own special story as it expands on the palate. The Sauvignon Blanc typicity still shines through, though it is more subtle, refined and incredibly complex. With every whiff and taste Te Koko continues to unfold and draw you in.
After the fermentation Te Koko spends about 18 months on its lees (the dead yeast cells) in the barrel, with occasional stirring if appropriate. Time spent on the lees creates palate weight, richness and texture. After bottling it spends another 18 months aging in their cellars, generating even more complexity in the wine, before being released to the market. So, all in all it is almost a four year process compared to about nine to twelve months for most New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc wines.
The 2006 Te Koko, in my opinion, while delicious to drink right now can age and evolve even more for the next 6 to 8 years. The acidity, extract, fruit, minerality and length are all present in spades.
Unfortunately, a wine of this caliber that is so costly to produce (think about it — almost six years since the grapes were harvested to get it on the U.S. shelves) does not come cheap. Te Koko retails for about $50 and is widely available in major metropolitan areas around the country. So it is an ideal wine to gift or cellar for a special birthday, anniversary or other distant celebration.
Mary Gorman-McAdams, MW (Master of Wine), is a New York based wine educator, freelance writer and consultant.
<(Images: Mary Gorman and Cloudy Bay)