Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Wine Review: Ant Moore Sauvignon Blanc (2010)

Ant Moore Sauvignon Blanc (2010) Review:
Price: £10 per bottle
Availability: Independent merchants and online

Some could accuse Ant Moore of being a bit of an egotist. He himself was not sure about putting his name on the front of his wines, but faced with the prospect of naming his wine after “another tree, river, rock or mountain” and then trying to define what made his wine unique, he felt his name seemed like a fair choice. I’m inclined to agree. Many great vineyards the world over are named after the families that have worked their vines and defined their heritage, why should it be any different for Ant? Perhaps it is because Ant is relatively young and successful that has drawn people’s jealousy, but frankly success at a young (ish!) age should be celebrated rather than attacked.

Having moved to Marlborough in New Zealand in 2002, Ant Moore has since undertaken every task necessary to produce top notch wine. With 10 years experience producing wine for other people, this Ant Moore Sauvignon Blanc was Ant’s first true estate wine. Having developed a number of challenging bare and barren blocks of land into vineyards, having purchased a winery and built it up and having created a number of other successful wine brands, the time was right for this “Ant Moore” Sauvignon Blanc, which is grown, tended to and produced by his own hands (with the help of a dedicated team). It is truly Ant’s first signature wine.

Marlborough of course has been famous for Sauvignon Blanc since Cloudy Bay’s debut in the mid-eighties. Benefiting from the contrast between hot sunny days and cool nights that the region produces, winemakers are able to extend the ripening period of their vines like nowhere else in the world, which allows explosive flavours and a unique New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc identity to express itself in the glass. Ant has taken this to extremes with this Ant Moore Sauvignon Blanc. Planted on exposed ridges which see hot sun but also bitter frosts, Ant’s vineyards were originally thought too cold to produce wine from, until he proved convention wrong. Vines are only able to survive when sprayed with water which then freezes overnight to ice, thereby protecting the vines themselves from the cold air.

Now owning several sites around Marlborough, the fruit for this Ant Moore Sauvignon Blanc comes from three of the estate vineyards: “Pear Tree”; “Duck and Pheasant”; and “Ant’s Nest” (“Ant’s Nest” being Ant Moore’s first vineyard site in Marlborough). Picked by machine from the vineyards, which are just 10 minutes from the winery, pressing of the Sauvignon Blanc grapes then takes about 3 hours per 10 tonne batch of grapes. After pressing, the wine is settled for a couple of days, before fermentation of each batch of grapes which takes around 15 days. At this point the separate batches of fully-formed wines are blended to make the final offering: Ant Moore’s Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. 4 months after harvest the wine is bottled and ready.

Originally bottled with a squint-inducing bright day-glo green foil and screw cap, this 2010 vintage of Ant Moore’s Sauvignon Blanc comes with a more subtle white screw cap and foil. The label is hardly subtle though, despite its white background, with multi-coloured, psychedelic vine leaves and fruit, along with images of all the animals that occupy Ant Moore’s vineyards. Simply labelled 2010 – Ant Moore Sauvignon Blanc – Marlborough, it is nonetheless an elegant piece of presentation.

In the glass, this Ant Moore Sauvignon Blanc is a very pale, gooseberry green. There are a few fine bubbles that cling to the base of the glass. The legs are difficult to make out given the pale colour of the wine, although they are also difficult to make out as this Ant Moore Sauvignon Blanc is significantly lighter in alcohol than much Sauvignon Blanc that comes out of Marlborough, with an abv of just 12.5%. Likely the product of a conscious choice on behalf of Ant during the winemaking process and a product of the cool growing conditions experienced by the exposed blocks of vines used to make this wine, this Ant Moore Sauvignon Blanc should show a little more finesse than much New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc as a result.

The nose of this Ant Moore Sauvignon Blanc is very aromatic. Unusually more rounded than much New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and with a hint of sweetness, tropical fruits such as guavas and papayas come to the fore along with a wilder, more grassy and herbaceous note that also cuts through. Nicely complex.

In the mouth, tropical fruits again lead. Sharp lime and a little pineapple feature – flavours which become softer through the mid-palate of this Ant Moore Sauvignon Blanc until a clean wash of acidity refreshes the finish. Marked by a good length of flavour and persistent finish, this Ant Moore Sauvignon Blanc is both complex and full of flavour.

This Ant Moore Sauvignon Blanc is an excellent Sauvignon Blanc. Planted in a location where conventional wisdom said that vines could not survive, not only do vines survive, they produce Sauvignon Blanc which is unique in its flavours and character – a true expression of that part of Marlborough and a testament to Ant and his team’s hard work and endeavour.

Ant Moore Sauvignon Blanc (2010)

Score: 87/100 – Aromatic and complex, yet balanced in the manner of few NZ Sauvignons. Eminently drinkable.

Value for Money: 9/10 – Many Marlborough Sauvignons at this price are not so accomplished.

Other Sauvignon Blanc reviewed to date:

Waterkloof “Circle of Life”
Ant Moore Sauvignon Blanc
Errazuriz Estate Sauvignon Blanc
Michel Girard & Fils Sancerre
Villa Maria “Private Bin” Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc
Wither Hills, Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc
Off Piste “Marlborough Springs” Sauvignon Blanc
Wairau Cove Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc