Tastes change. And yet they don’t. Mainstream Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc has edged its way from green and grassy – what the Brits adored in the 1980s – to something riper, often with passionfruit, more textured and detailed, with richness and length being desirable, and without the searing acidity. The lesser examples of the Loire were the benchmarks for the early Marlborough models, and we in New Zealand could achieve it easily, as we hadn’t learned about pushing ripeness, crop loading and balance.
But in the Loire there were those who took Sauvignon Blanc very seriously. Who can frRget Didier Dageneau with his bottlings with oak and lees inputs, higher concentration and length. These cost a bomb to buy and try, but they were revelations to sophistication and minerality, as well as expressions of terroir.
In a way, nothing has changed as we have the likes of James Healy and Ivan Sutherland of Dog Point in the Southern Valley district of Marlborough. What they have done, as exampled by the 2016 Dog Point ‘Section 94’ Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc may seem novel, ground-breaking and the direction forward for Marlborough to go, if the region is to show that it is more than a one-trick pony. But what they’ve done is realise the like of Dageneau had the right approach for complexity and expression. Fruit ripened to the perfect place, barrel-fermentation with solids by indigenous yeasts, and lees contact galore. To those more used to mainstream, these are firm, taut, funk anf gunflinty. Nothing like what Sauvignon should be. To those with a broader palate experience, you have detail, finesse, intricacy, funky layers of complexity adding to the fruit. Minerality for sure, and who knows, expression of place?