The results of Cuisine’s tasting of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc have been released in Issue 156, for January 2013. Of the 237 wines tasted by the panel led by John Belsham with Mike de Garis and Sam Kim, with John Saker in the associate judge role, they found 13 5-star wines, 11 rated 4 ½-stars and 29 wines at 4-star level. The Top Ten wines all came from the 2012 vintage in Marlborough, deemed a difficult and nerve-wracking one, where “autumn provided a ‘Get Out Of Jail Free’ card” noted John Belsham. He continues “There was no shortage of flavour”, but it was seen as a vintage where experience counted for much. Cuisine reports that “the overall success of the vintage is reflected in the numbers: from 237 entries, an impressive 53 wines achieved four stars or more”. Sauvignon Blanc is a good value buy as well, with 20 wines qualifying as ‘Best Buys’, 6 of the wines rated at 5-star level.
The Thiol Issue
The Cuisine results look particularly interesting in light of my recent thoughts on thiol expression – the pungent passionfruit, tropical fruit and sweaty character that is seen in many of our Sauvignon Blancs. (Click here to see my article.) My observations from the results of the recent 2012 Air New Zealand Wine Awards reflected the current trend of not rewarding or endorsing wines with significant thiol expression. There seems to be a tacit bias against it. The situation is certainly a complex one, but I suggested that the discrimination process on what is acceptable and what is not should be given more attention, and that under current judging conditions, many very good wines that possess the stronger thiol expression are being overlooked. The results of the Cuisine tasting, with three very highly respected and experienced judges has provided support for my assertion by the higher proportion of wines in top positions showing plenty of positive thiol character coming through. Clearly the thiol issue has been considered in the judging process, as this Cuisine article includes a side-bar on it.
The ‘Top Ten’ New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc wines in order were: Auntsfield ‘Single Vineyard 2012, Rapaura Springs ‘Reserve’ 2012, Saint Clair ‘Pioneer Block 2 – Swamp Block’ 2012, Opawa 2012, Stoneleigh 2012, Stoneleigh ‘Latitude’ 2012, Dashwood 2012, Stoneleigh ‘Rapaura Series’ 2012, Delta 2012, Saint Clair ‘Pioneer Block 3 – 43 Degrees’ 2012.
N.Z. Rosé and Dessert Wines
This issue of Cuisine magazine also reported on the results of tastings of rosé wines and dessert wines. 51 rosé wines were tasted and only two wines were rated 4-stars or more, with none achieving 5-star standard. This is typical of the situation with rosé, where panel chair John Belsham reckoned “Not many producers put much effort into it and it shows”. In the rosé wines I’ve reviewed to date, only one wine has garnered a 5-star rating in the past year in Raymond Chan Wine Reviews. For the record, the top Cuisine rosé was the Terra Sancta Central Otago Pinot Noir Rosé 2012 with 4 ½-stars, followed by the Wild Earth Central Otago Rosé 2012 at 4-stars.
A similar outcome looks to be the case with dessert wines, but the situation is not quite the same. Of 45 wines judged, there were 3 wines at 5-star level, 2 at 4 ½-stars and 5 at 4-stars. 27 were rated no-award. Mike de Garis noted “There was a huge divide between top and bottom. The best wines were obviously made specifically for the style, while others seemed to owe their existence to an ad hoc decision”. Cuisine lists a ‘Top 5′, and the three wines at 5-star level were: Jackson Estate Botrytis Riesling 2011, Riverby Estate Noble Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon 2011 and Cloudy Bay Late Harvest Riesling 2007.
Cuisine Magazine Wine Content
I find it very pleasing that the content in Cuisine magazine devoted to wine seems to have been restored to former levels, following a period where it appeared to been reduced in number of pages. Through the year, I also thought the results were far less interesting due to a lack of comprehensiveness in the wines being judged for those particular themes. The quality of the judging is always of a high and very acceptable standard, and the writing of John Saker and Ralph Kyte-Powell always a pleasure to read, but much depends on the breadth and depth of wines that are entered for tasting. Cuisine must continue to attract the broadest range of wines in terms of style, and most importantly, wines at the highest level of quality – these wines often at the more expensive end of pricing – within consumer reason. After all, Cuisine’s sub-title is “food, wine & good living”, and the wine content is a major and integral part of the attraction of the Cuisine magazine package. www.cuisine.co.nz