It's the 30 year anniversary of Montana Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc this weekend. N.Z.'s most important grape variety and arguably the most important producer in terms of size and consistency. Lots has happened since then.....but the wine is still being made, and proudly. We had our own celebration, with some of the earlier vintages. To tell the truth, some of the wines were not inspiring, but some were still O.K. Here's a run down of what we looked at:
First made in 1979, that wine didn't last well. 1980 was a cracker, but we didn't look at either of those. 1981 was our first, found in the old cellar. Still varietal, some soft asparagus, greener acidity, but faded. Our 1982 was thoroughly oxidised. Did Not Put In Mouth. 1983 was actually pretty good. Riper asparagus fruit expression, some rounded weight and textures, drinkable. This was a super year for N.Z. and some of the Rieslings could also be alive.
1984 was a wine that still showed well in the early 1990s. The fresh acids were preservatives. Here it was well oxidised and green simultaneously. 1985 caused some wonderment with its freshness and liveliness. Dipped in mid-palate, a little light, but with length. Unfortunately, our 1986 was corked and had gone decrepit and rotten. It was a high yield year, so this did not surprise us.
The deep golden colour of the 1987 told us it was too late. Steely aromatics along with oxidation. DNPIM. 1988 was thin and oxidised. Cyclone Bola gave a wine with little fruit. So an oxidised dilute wine gave only oxidation! 1989 was the pleasant surprise. Sweet lemon-grass notes, soft and broad, a little dried, but with fruit lushness.
We did not expect much from the 1989 'Show Reserve', fermented and matured in French barriques. Oxidation and a hint of oak spice? The power of suggestion! 1990 was not the best vintage, but here the wine was just alive. Light, faded, but just there. We expected 1991 to be better. Other 1991 Sauv Blancs, such as Hunters, have lasted. Earthy, steely and again decrepit stuff.
I suppose the conclusion is - don't keep these type of wines this long. But the early wines were generally better. There is a case for the simplest and most reductive winemaking being suitable for ageworthiness with this style. In my books, you should be drunk in the first 5 years or so.
To reward ourselves, we had 1983 and 1982 Ch. Langoa Barton from St Julien, a third growth. As usual the 1982 had it all over the 1983. Richer, more seriously together, the 1983 faded in comparison. Leaner, drier and tougher. Overall, they showed the Langoa pedigree. Or slight lack of it. Just a little too firm and slightly coarse, when compared to its more highly rated sibling Leoville Barton. I know which one I'd drink at 30 Years of age.