Marlborough sauvignon blanc is quite different to the same variety anywhere else in the world.  What is it about the region and the grape that has led to its success?

Jancis Robinson is one of Britain’s best known and well respected wine critics. In this video she gives her opinion on sauvignon blanc, comparing wines and production methods in Marlborough, Sancerre (France) and South America.

Take a look at ‘JANCIS ROBINSON sauvignon blanc’, but it’s about 30 minutes long so why not pour yourself a glass of Marlborough sauvignon blanc to put yourself in the right frame of mind as you watch?

Jancis admits that most sauvignon blancs leave her pretty cold but concedes that Marlborough’s version has taken the world by storm. To quote “There’s little to it. Just the reek of cat’s pee on a gooseberry bush, loads of acidity and a little fruit if you’re lucky. But that’s my problem, not the Marlborough vine growers. In just twenty years from scratch, they’ve developed such a following for their particularly fruity style of razor sharp sauvignon blanc that they reckon they are the only New World winemakers actually beating the French at their own game”.

Sauvignon blanc transforms the Marlborough landscape

She goes on to share the remarkable story of the transformation of the Marlborough landscape. Marlborough is on the northern tip of New Zealand’s South Island and although it is only 20 minutes by sea from the national’s capital, it could be on another planet. Not long ago this valley was mainly occupied by sheep. The grazing was so poor that among farmers who could scarcely make ends meet suicides were not unknown. She comments on the freedom of the New World winemakers to adjust acidity and sugar levels, to irrigate in dry years and to experiment with yeasts and stainless steel tanks – all important processes in the creation of the typical zesty fruity sauvignon blanc that characterises this region. In contrast she shares the extensive regulations that come with the appellation controllee classification of the vineyards in the Sancerre.

Jancis attributes the rise of Marlborough sauvignon blanc to David Hohnen from the Margaret River region in Western Australia. He founded Cloudy Bay, one of the first five wineries in Marlborough. I would also give credit to the other four and particularly to Hunters who catapulted Marlborough sauvignon blanc to the world’s attention by claiming the trophy for the best white wine in the show at the Sunday Times Vintage Festival in 1986.

Sauvignon blanc in other countries

In the video Jancis goes on to follow several winemakers who focus on sauvignon blanc and compare their philosophies and practices. It is a journey through contrasting landscapes, attitudes and processes that sheds light on this grape variety.

Jancis is easy to listen to and gives a great introduction to the grape that has put Marlborough on the world wine map.

Once you have all the information why not book a Marlborough wine tour with Na Clachan Wine Tours to see for yourself what makes Marlborough sauvignon blanc in a glass and class of its own.