Instead, a region of New Zealand called Marlborough has lent its name to a style of Sauvignon Blanc that focuses on grapefruit. Baskets of grapefruit. Freshly squeezed grapefruit juice. Over-the-top-acidic grapefruit.
“Marlborough became synonymous with a style of Sauvignon Blanc that accentuated a single component of the varietal,” said Chris Alton, Kobrand ambassador to New Zealand.
Kobrand, one of the world’s largest spirits companies, is represented by Republic National Distributing in Oklahoma. It imports Craggy Range, a New Zealand line that emphasizes the more traditional style of varietals.
“The idea is to let the fruit speak for itself as much as possible,” Alton said. “Grapefruit is a flavor component of Sauvignon Blanc, but in Marlborough, winemakers used a manmade yeast that accentuated that component to the exclusion of all the other flavors.”
That’s right: The delicious burst of grapefruit you taste in those Marlborough-style wines is due to yeast, not the fruit. Craggy Range purposely uses less manipulation so that the character of the soil and the fruit emerge.
Craggy Range Sauvignon Blanc, available at Sushi Neko, 4318 N. Western, maintains all the refreshing characteristics of the varietal, and you can even taste a little grapefruit. Additionally, the wine is well-balanced with citrus and herbal flavors, and a slate-like minerality that leads to a clean finish. In character, it’s far more similar to Sancerre than Marlborough.
Sancerre is the region of France’s Loire Valley famous for balanced, restrained, mineral-y Sauvignon Blanc. Domaine Hippolyte Reverdy — available at Bin 73, 7312 N. Western, and Rococo Restaurant & Fine Wine, 2824 N. Penn — is an excellent and affordable example of the style. The wine is crisp and refined, with chalky minerality, citrus fruit, melon and herbal flavors.
Wine Spectator gave it 91 points, saying, “Mouthwatering from start to finish … ripe, but bright and lacy, with lovely detail.”
Another New Zealand winery moving away from the Marlborough style is Auntsfield, which, ironically, is located in Marlborough. In fact, it’s the oldest winery in the region, dating back to 1873. The wines are relatively new to the metro and are available at Broadway Wine Merchants, 824 N. Broadway, and Byron’s Liquor Warehouse, 2322 N. Broadway.
The Auntsfield Long Cow Sauvignon Blanc is a beautifully balanced wine, featuring tropical fruit, lemon, melon and orange zest. The lemon and melon notes are common in Sauvignon Blanc, and the first to be obscured by an excess of grapefruit. The same lemon-melon combination is common in California Sauvignon Blanc, especially Juslyn and Cliff Lede, two popular Napa producers.
Available by the glass at Mahogany Prime Steakhouse, 3241 W. Memorial, the Juslyn bursts with fresh lemon, lemongrass and melon. The herbal notes keep it slightly restrained, but it remains full and ripe. The Cliff Lede, available at Sushi Neko, is much more restrained, but maintains the profile of lemon, herbs and melon, showing excellent balance.
California producer David Arthur’s Sauvignon Blanc is too restrained to call it a basket of fruit, but fruit dominates, especially in the form of melon, peach and lime. It’s a beautiful wine that is radically different than many of the state’s Sauvignon Blancs. It’s ripe without being flabby, and maintains just enough acidity to make it refreshing. It’s available at Deep Fork Grill, 5418 N. Western.
Also available at Mahogany is Starmont, the second label from California icon Merryvale. Starmont’s Sauvignon Blanc is one of the best values in the metro. Solid Sauvignon Blanc character — bright acid, lemon, melon, herbal notes and a clean finish — is displayed in this wine that drinks like a far more expensive example of the varietal. Starmont is rapidly becoming a popular restaurant choice because of its consistent quality and excellent price.