Stoneleigh Wild Valley 2015 Sauvignon Blanc
It’s sweet, flabby and possibly cordialesque, yet the kiwi sauvalanche continues. The shelves of almost every bottle shop in the Country seemingly overflow with Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc yet despite its lolly water tag, it still outsells any other style many times over.
And it’s not that I am some kind of purest or a jealously parochial Australian wine lover; I just have a palate that craves a bit of structure, clean lines and integrity in the finish.
A couple of decades ago, the pioneering Marlborough Sauvignon Blancs were generally bright and lively and allowed ripe vivacious fruit to express itself, while clean acids and cautious winemaking brought a degree of harmony at the back of the palate. But the success of the style with consumers, has seemingly intoxicated the decision makers and suddenly, sauvignon blanc now accounts for about 70% of total New Zealand wine production. As sales grow, so too have plantings of the sauvignon blanc vines; often to the exclusion of any other varietal. Whatever happened to the sajen concept of spreading risk and not putting too many eggs in one basket?
History tells us that eventually capricious wine consumers will move their preferences to a new style of wine and if it is Rosé or Vermentino, the kiwi wine producers are in a bit of a pickle!
For now, Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc drinkers are spoilt for choice and can get their alcoholic tropical fruit punch under hundreds of different labels and at a wide range of price points. For mine, most of these sauvies from the Shaky Isle are overly pungent and as a general rule, overpriced. How is it that they get away with charging $25 to $30 a bottle for what is often clumsily made passionfruit and gooseberry crush in a bottle?
Stoneleigh Wild Valley 2015
Don’t get me wrong, some of the smaller producers near Blenheim are making very good sauvies, though rarely at a Dan Murphy’s catalogue price point of $10 to $20 a bottle. If we must suffer our way through an inexpensive sauvignon blanc from the region, then the Stoneleigh Wild Valley 2015 is probably as good as you’ll find for the spend. It hails from the Rapaura sub region which is at the northern end of the district. There are the usual hints of passionfruit on the nose but once on the palate, the tropical fruits are greener and slightly citric but fortunately, don’t evolve into a veritable lolly bomb in the mouth. Where many contemporaries have uncontrolled and intemperate sugary fruit on the finish, the Stoneleigh at least disciplines its generous mouthfeel through a well-balanced finale. At $18 a bottle, it is probably fair value, though I am hardly an advocate for the style, or the region!