In a recent tasting of 131 New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs (no I didn’t taste all of them!) there were five grouped together as “lower alcohol”.
Now lower alcohol could be anything from 5% to maybe 10% alcohol by volume in a bottle of wine, and the usefulness of this can be considered in two ways. Either you are going to drink in your usual moderate way and pat yourself on the back for being even more alcoholically correct, or you are going to use it as an excuse for being able to consume four bottles and still stay within the law!
As most of you probably know, New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs have a typically tangy, tropical fruity (kiwifruit, guava and/or passion fruit usually) taste, coupled with a good streak of acidity to balance the slightly sweet finish on the palate. The best examples do this superbly and make a really delightful more-ish bevvy, which can be slurped, swigged or delicately drunk with asparagus (in particular), salads, seafood and any light fish dish. It also can cut through fatty sauces such as mayonnaise to enhance and bring out the flavours of what it has been put on top of.
On the other hand, some of these Sauvignon Blancs are pretty alcoholic – 13% or more, which could mean that they sometimes overwhelm the food with which they accompany. Now a few New Zealand wine producers are trying to make some less exuberant examples of what is arguably New Zealand’s best wine varietal. Why should I drink a Bordeaux or Loire-style Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand? Well I suppose that if I were living in New Zealand my choices would be limited, but I don’t. I like my New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs just as much as I like those from the Loire or Bordeaux and more importantly, I like to taste the difference.
So it was with some delight that four out of the five “lower alcohol” wines on display hadn’t lost the exuberant typicality of the genre. The exception was the Invivo Belle Marlborough 2014 (£12.99) from Codorniu Raventos which was more nettley than passionfruity. Nothing wrong with that per se, but for me, not New Zealand. Maybe as it is a Spanish-owned winery, they felt that the wine had to be more European. The Doctors Marlborough 2014 Sauvignon Blanc, from Waitrose (£8.99) was light, racy and full of tropical fruit flavours, with a little grassiness in the mix – Villa Maria’s Private Bin Lighter Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2014 was in similar vein, but at £11.25, not as good value. Both had 9% alcohol by volume and I would consider them fine for quaffing on the banks of a stream (perhaps with your feet in it) accompanying a plate of asparagus with vinaigrette. Spy Valley Easy Tiger Sauvignon Blanc 2014 blended from unspecified regions (£11.99) had a slightly synthetic taste about it. Here was a wine quite obviously made in the cellar rather than in the vineyard and at 9.5% abv seemed comparatively clumsy. But the most impressive of the five was the Old Coach Road Nelson Lighter Sauvignon Blanc 2014, which showed great balance between the fruit and the acidity. A really zippy wine, complete with those typical tropical fruit undertones and at 9% abv it’s not going to break the bank (£11.99), or give you a headache (unless, of course, you are into the four bottle mode!)
The Doctors Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2014 ★★£B
Villa Maria Private Bin Lighter Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2014 ★★£B
Hatch Mansfield www.hatchmansfield.com
Spy Valley Easy tiger Sauvignon Blanc 2014 ★£B
Bibendum Wine www.bibendum-wine.co.uk
Old Coach Road Nelson Lighter Sauvignon Blanc 2014 ★★£B
John E Fells www.fells.co.uk
Invivo Belle Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2014 ★£C
Codorniu Raventos www.codorniu.com