Savoring Sauvignon Blanc from Hawkes Bay and Wairarapa invites new pleasures altogether
Love the spectrum of Sauvignon Blanc but tire of the color-by-number options that flood most New Zealand offerings? The answers to this conundrum are the wines grown by Rodd McDonald in Hawkes Bay and Paddy Borthwick of Wairarapa.
TE AWANGA ESTATE | HAWKES BAY
New Zealand’s oldest wine region, Hawkes Bay on the east coast of the North Island hosts vineyards from the inland hills right to the coast, whose maritime climate, much like Bordeaux’ lends to long ripening and a bright acidity both ripe and nuanced. This is home to Te Awanga Estate, named after the Maori word for “flax” once grown here and harvested to form into cheese baskets in the region’s early years as a storied land of pasture and dairies.
This is the land where Kim Crawford first started when it was less a brand and more a wine of place -one of vineyards planted to the volcanic ash of Hawkes Bay which rained down to cover the region during the second largest volcanic eruption in the Earth’s history. Thanks to this Hawkes Bay is now the fruit bowl of New Zealand where fruit and vegetables thrive -not least such wine grapes as the renowned Sauvignon Blanc.
Committed to sustainable viticulture in order to make better wine, Te Awanga Estate plants wildflowers down the rows of Sauvignon Blanc to take the edge off its vigor hence the wine’s name: Wildflower. This is a ripe, juicy, approachable Sauvingon Blanc with charming passionfruit scents and flavors and a wisp of fresh greenery but none of that asparagus water that plagues so many alternatives at this inviting price point. Wildflower embodies all the charms of Sauvignon Blanc without any of the cat pee or gooseberry or vegetal notes that make some wince.
Te Awanga’s Mister Sauvignon Blanc on the other hand stands ready for any dish one might squeeze a lemon or lime over as it shows much more salinity and chalky mineral that lends to an appetizing texture that never reads as fruit juice when paired with food – a challenge for less vinous wines. The Mister also expresses a brighter lime and nectarine citrus profile that carries on through its invigorating, mouthwatering structure. Tempered by some lees aging for mouthfeel and texture, Mister Sauvignon Blanc is generous and flavorsome with an intensity to its fruit, a juicy squeeze to its structure, and a long and penetrating finish.
PADDY BORTHWICK | WAIRARAPA
South of Hawkes Bay is Wairarapa (Why-Ra-RAP-pa) home to Borthwick Vineyards in the sub-region of Gladstone which is gifted for its well-draining river terraces, cool climate, and inviting sunshine. This is another marvel altogether for the aromatics it inspires. Just by its very nature Wairarapa means low yields and intensity. Wellington is the windiest city in the world with winds rising to 30 to 150mph daily – funneling through Cook’s Straight. Compare that to Marlborough which gets winds from the teens to 40mph and we can imagine how these westerly winds keep frost from setting in.
While Wairarapa only grows 1% of New Zealand’s production, they are among the most concentrated wines. Think of the yields: most Marlborough vines ripen 9 to 20 lbs per vine whereas Wairarapa only ripens 5 to 12lbs -lending great concentration by nature.
In the end, Patty Borthwick has an edge to it with plenty of cut and thrust but somehow no wringing acidity and its grassy lift and layered fruit tempers a gentle curve to its personality. This gifted place combined with the Borthwick family’s 100 years of experience over five generations creates a world class Sauvignon Blanc unto itself. For all who enjoy Sauvignon Blanc, Paddy Borthwick is a must.