"I'm a King Kong Man, I'm a voodoo Man, oh I'm a Grape Man."
Ray Davies, Kinks (often misheard)

By Martin Brown.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Kiwi Sauvignons For British Downpours

Ivan Sutherland
Tardy on my part, but earlier this summer I had the privilege of trying Dog Point’s newest wines with Ivan, Margaret and Matt Sutherland. A blog post can be found on Society Grapevine.

In it, I mentioned that their distinctive and distinguished Section 94 could well be New Zealand’s finest Sauvignon Blanc. One of my learned colleagues calls Kiwi Sauvignon the gin and tonic of our time, and in most instances I agree wholeheartedly. As a result of it fulfilling this commendable purpose in people’s lives, many highbrow voices tend to enjoy dismissing its charms as copybook rather than complex.

That is to say, a wine for empty-headed sunny days rather than the drizzly contemplation we are so fond of on these isles.

And so in this, the wettest British summer for 100 years, more ‘serious’ examples like Section 94 have been rather welcome. It’s a great wine, but it’s also got texture. It goes with casseroles and stews. It feels warmer.

Of course novelty does not always breed nobility, and some wackily made Kiwi Sauvignons have made me yearn for a chilled, uncomplicated glass of the grassy status quo. But when it works, as if someone's snuck a Screamin’ Jay Hawkins number in a Marvin Gaye playlist.

Pressed whole-bunch before being fermented and aged in old oak, Bellbird Spring Block Eight Sauvignon Blanc 2010 is a wine that rasps where others croon: the Tom Waits of New Zealand Sauvignon.

I could smell citrus fruit, but instead of being crisp and sweet it was defiant and sour. I could taste tropical fruit, but of crystallised and baked rather than the ‘freshly squeezed’ kind. There was intensity and juiciness, but also mouth-puckering, stone-sucking minerality and echoic length.

Bonkers, vital, complex, different, it was what a lot of people either think Kiwi Sauvignon shouldn’t be or is incapable of being, and I loved it all the more for that. These more unusual wines are comparatively expensive. But sunny days are easy: rainy ones can require a greater splash. The damp and the intrepid will reap the benefits.

Photo of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins by Memi Beltrame.

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