Friday, 19 August 2011

Wine Review: Wairau Cove Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (2010)

Wairau Cove Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (2010) Review
Price: £10 per bottle
Availability: Supermarket

The grape of England’s summer this year (if you can really classify a couple of sunny days between the rain as a summer) is undoubtedly Sauvignon Blanc. It has replaced the ubiquitous Pinot Grigio (and before that fat oaky Chardonnay – remember that?) as the de facto drink of choice for vivacious young things who have decided that they like their wine as lively and refreshing possible. Oh, and it has to be from New Zealand, a couple of decidedly slick advertising campaigns and numerous supermarket promotions have helped here, but French Sauvignon Blanc is so stuffy anyway and besides, Mum and Dad still drink that.

With the increase of popularity of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc though, has come an increase in production and with an increase in production some less than optimal vineyard sites have been planted with a resultant increase in the number of decidedly curiously tasting offerings that one can find hailing from New Zealand’s shores. It used to be the case that a “Marlborough” Sauvignon Blanc was covered by an aura of higher quality – something that was reflected in the price (an average per bottle price of around £6.50 by comparison to a UK average bottle price of around £5), but now prices have begun to fall away as supply of Sauvignon Blanc has begun to outstrip demand and as further supermarket deals have driven prices down.

This “Wairau Cove” Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is one such example of a supermarket wine that sees regular discounting. Despite a list price of £9.99 on the supermarket website, online forums are full of discussions surrounding 3 for £10 offers on this "Wairau Cove" Sauvignon Blanc and even walking away with 6 bottles of "Wairau Cove"  Sauvignon Blanc for just £17 (you get an extra 5% off the original price if you take 6) which works out at just £2.83 a bottle. Personally I am sceptical of such offers, rarely does it seem like the wine that you end up with is worth even the reduced price, let alone the full retail price (supermarkets do have to make money!) but setting that cynicism aside, it is time to see whether this “Wairau Cove” Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is a good bottle that represents a genuine bargain, or whether it is a bottle best left on the shelf (even at a reduced price)!

At first glance, the signs are not necessarily encouraging for this "Wairau Cove" Sauvignon Blanc. Normally wine will have a name and maker listed, for example: “Villa Maria” (maker) may produce a “Private Bin Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc” (name) - reviewed here in case you were wondering! This “Wairau Cove” Sauvignon Blanc does not list a maker, but instead carries a tag which shows it was grown in New Zealand, but is bottled in the UK. This smacks of this “Wairau Cove” Sauvignon Blanc being a mass produced, volume wine produced on an industrial scale. Whilst this doesn’t necessarily mean that this "Wairau Cove" Sauvignon Blanc will be a bad wine, wine produced in this way does tend to taste more of a contrived “generic” flavour of a particular grape, rather than showcasing the flavours of a unique vineyard or special location.

Speaking of location, I can’t find a “Wairau Cove” that exists anywhere in Marlborough. (The Wairau Valley is a well known sub-region, but there is no “Wairau Cove” here either). This raises another interesting question, why name your wine after a place that does not exist?

Name and provenance aside, the bottle of this “Wairau Cove” Sauvignon Blanc itself is neither particularly striking nor offensive. A low shouldered, Burgundy style bottle is sealed with a screw cap (much like nearly every other bottle of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc out there) and is adorned with a plain looking white and black label with the "Wairau Cove" name picked out.

In the glass, this “Wairau Cove” Sauvingon Blanc is again fairly typical New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc – a light to dilute gooseberry colour. Not particularly intense, the legs of this "Wairau Cove" Sauvignon Blanc are hard to pick out due to the paleness of the wine’s colour but an alcoholic content of 13.5% is more or less average for a New Zealand Sauvignon, even if weightier examples do exist.

On the nose though, “typical” New Zealand Sauvignon starts to go out of the window with this "Wairau Cove" Sauvignon Blanc. Rather than exhibiting lime, cut grass and herbs as we have come to expect from Marlborough Sauvignon, I detect more European green apples and pears. Unusual and a little too much bitter green apple skin leaves a bitter note at the top of your nose which is not altogether pleasant.

This unusual flavour profile is carried through to the taste of this “Wairau Cove” Sauvignon Blanc. Whilst a lump of limey tropical fruit does feature at the start of the taste, this is drowned out by a medley of Granny Smith’s and hard, under-ripe pears picked too early from the tree. This "Wairau Cove" Sauvignon Blanc actually reminds me very much of a “curiously flavoured” Bordeaux Sauvignon Blanc that used to get handed out at events when I was at university – students will drink anything!

In all, this "Wairau Cove" Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is something of a curious experience. Seemingly named after a place that doesn’t exist, the wine lacks a sense of identity in its flavours that make it difficult to place this Wairau Cove as a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc at all. On one level unusual and on another, not altogether pleasant, whilst a heavy discount may sell the first few bottles you are left to wonder whether anyone would make a repeat purchase of this wine. I wouldn’t.

Wairau Cove Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (2010)

Score: 63/100 – Neither like a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc nor particularly pleasant.

Value for Money: 3/10 – Cheap but not very cheerful!

Other Sauvignon Blanc Reviewed to Date:

Errazuriz Estate Sauvignon Blanc
Michel Girard & Fils Sancerre
Villa Maria “Private Bin” Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc
Off Piste “Marlborough Springs” Sauvignon Blanc
Wairau Cove Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc