Cullen Vineyard Margaret River Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2009
$35; 11.5% alcohol; screw cap; tasted 2-6JUN10; certified biodynamic; 94+++ points
One of the most deceptive wines to cross my desk in a long while, this willowy seedling tried to sorta sneak by undetected several days ago. It was pretending to be an alfalfa sprout. It has grown since then. It now wangs you with an authoritative blast of dry stone aromas, with the husky, sexy wafts of carbide and acrid cordite. Some of the stone is kernel. From the peach. Hydrocyanic acid. That sweet sweet smell of danger. And then a very clean, almost watery rise of pear and apple flavours. It's like something that happened, not something that was made. I think it needs fifteen years. It's beautiful. But seriously, I've had it open for days, and it's only just starting to put its head back and yawn. It has very tender, shy aromatics and primary fruits attempting to apologise for a stone and sprung metal chassis that will carry and educate this drink for many years. But now, all you'll get is that first sensual yawny stretch of the morning. Grrrr.
Cullen Vineyard Margaret River Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2008
$35; 12.5% alcohol; screw cap; 94++ points
Umami. Oenomatopoeia. That texture of the best chicken soup. The food of Cheong or Tetsuya. The first flavour we taste after birth. Atop all the tight macho stone and acid and skins and stuff, this wine oozes a beautiful mother's cream. Not her milk; her cream. It's slightly turned, like a junket. Shit it's good! You know that custardy aspect of jackfruit? It's beyond pineapple. Pineapple butter. Add some really good French oak, and you're rockin'. Austere yet comforting. The six mile slide on a five mile ride. Hallelujah! And the more you sit with it, the more austere and stony it becomes. It's way past Bette Davis. Hell it's beyond Barbara Stanwyck now ... 7 MAR 09
Suckfizzle Margaret River Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2007
$50; 13% alcohol; screw cap; tasted December 2011; 94++ points
Forget the Kiwis. They have no Savvy-b to match this brute. Grown on the east side of the Naturaliste Ridge away down on Cape Leeuwin, between the Indian and Great Southern Oceans, it is Australia’s most south-western vineyard. It’s five hectares, and averages about five tonnes per hectare from vines with an average age of fifteen years. Philosophically, winemaker Stuart Pym has been heavily influenced by the great dry whites of Bordeaux, but there’s no chance of a wine like this coming from there: this is blockbuster Aussie, true blue. Bordeaux is, he points out, a fair distance from Cape Leeuwin, wherever you trained. It smells a little like a fresh lemon sabayon, with stacks of citrus pith on the side. It has a creamy tweak which approaches crème caramel, but never quite gets there: there’s a sand dune in the way. The palate is stern, authoritative and rock solid: candied lemon and verbena, teasingly creamy, like the flesh of jackfruit or lychee, but only a tease, and then you hit that wall of natural acid and very fine tannin. Overall, it seems sultrily oriental and exotic with all those Golden Triangle tropicals and spices forever changing places in the shadows. It’s a beauty. The Sauvignon’s (59.5%; 12.5 Baumé ) picked before the Semillon (40.5%;12 Baumé). It’s fermented 100% in new French oak then half is transferred to older wood for maturation; it’s selected, racked and blended in December, then returned to wood until July and bottled in August before being cellared again before release. You could easily give it another decade, or attack it now with bouillabaisse, or something at least as hearty from the sea. Stunning, and getting more so. Kung fu.
Voyager Estate Margaret River Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2006
Paracombe Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2007
$21; 12.5% alcohol; screw cap; 94 points
Classical music critics speak admiringly of voices that are "polished in the high register". Being dominated by neither acid nor lawn clippings, this gorgeous white is instead marked more with whiffs of frangipani, magnolia, rose and maybe even freesia, and its wickedly elegant attack is smooth and polished in its high register; thus easily surrendered to. For the addicts, it's more 05 than 06. I don't know how you could achieve a better example of the style. It finishes long and tapering, with extremely fine drying tannins. Perfect for whiting with prawn mousselline and beurre blanc.
Cullen Mangan Vineyard Margaret River Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2008
$35; 11.5% alcohol; screw cap; 93++ points
A warm 07 spring saw Vanya Cullen's whites ripen early and low. And really sneakily understated in a way. I mean they're so elegant they seem fragile, and then they seem so tough they're scary. This one's a nerd. It knows bloody well everything. I think it thinks it's a boy, but you never know. It's stony and hard and lemony and pithy, and you know what? It likes a spot of decanter. Give it some air, put it back in the bottle, then cool it - half an hour in the ice bucket should do it. It's big and staunch enough to handle quite oily fish, smoked, too. Like I wouldn't go chasing King George Whiting with it, that's far too fine. It'd be great with duck, too: that stony acid would rip into the duck fat and dance. So there you go. Started out with an elegant tranny nerd and end up with a duck hunting exotic dancer. Ernest Hemingway as Carmen Miranda. As Janet Flanner wrote between the wars from Paris, "I always thought Ernest was overly machismo, even in the smallest matters". And I quote from memory because CatWoman still has my Flanner book. Mmm. 07 MAR 09
Hahndorf Hill Winery Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2008
$21; 13% alcohol; screw cap; drunk MAR 09; 93+ points
Amongst the best ever Hills savvy-Bs, this bouquet transported me to Chateau Rahoul ca 1980 when the finicky Dane, Peter Vinding-Diers, was making exquisitely fine, perfumed dry Bordeaux whites that were beginning to change the whole notion of such a beast. Sure, it’s crunchy and brittle, with hints of oxalis and gooseberry amongst the shattered windscreen, but even the bouquet has enough fleshy filling to make very clear this is not your front lawn doused with battery acid sort of HillsBilly no savvy. The palate’s full. Full-bodied. Check that glycerol! It’s almost as if the fruit had a gentle botrytis strike and StepHen Hickinbotham got at it. This is a perfectly-balanced wine in its extreme infancy, and maybe the best sauvignon I know of emerging from the S&S cousins’ weinhaus. And we’re only half-way through. The finish is a real tease: leanly astringent, with that counterplay of citrus and podsol common to all these lovely wines.
Dominique Portet Yarra Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2009
$??; 13% alcohol; screw cap; drunk 21-22MAY10; 93+ points
This is a perfect follow-on of the 08, but it's better because it's finer: the pear is more along the lines of the Belgian Passe-Crassane, which is a cross of pear and quince, and a more complex aroma than the simplicity of the Nashi. It's slightly smoky, too, adding a softer tone than last year's blackpowder. It still has the ever so slight acridity that makes good Sauvignon what it is, but this is more towards burlap: fresh hemp rope. It reminds me of Rickie Lee Jones singing low, maybe because of that sexy husky tone. The palate is slender - perfectly viscous for its willowy frame - and slippery, so it escapes the mouth tenderly, then leaves that pleasing, bone-dry fine-grained phenolic, making the brain tick towards scallops on the half shell. It's a very pleasing drink that deserves more than the mindless quaff due most Sauvignons: you can savour it, and roll it around the palate, and feel much the better for the pondering.
Dominique Portet Yarra Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2008
$??; 14% alcohol; screw cap; 93 points
Fresh, cool, honeydew melon and nashi pear are the middle aromas, with creamy cosmetics below an acrid blackpowder edge that tickles the nostrils. This, like most of yon Portet’s forté, is a much more complex and structured than most of its rivals at the price, but while Dominique’s wines are forceful, they don’t really shout at you. The palate is thick for savvyB, somehow approaching the syrup of pinot gris. It reminds me of the sauvignons Michel Dietrich made at Quelltaler in Watervale in the ’eighties. The alcohol’s up there, but it’s more thoughtfully assembled and bred than most Marlboroughs.
Gipsie Jack Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2007
$22; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; 93 points
John Glaetzer, the great red man who won all the trophies for Wolf Blass (eleven Montgomeries for best red in the Adelaide show; four Jimmy Watson’s), wisely went to New Zealand to make this racy spunk. It beats most Australian savvies b hands down. He shares this brand with Ben Potts, of Langhorne Creek. The wine manages to be clean, zesty and even a tad grassy, while maintaining enough viscosity to keep the palate comfy whilst refreshing it. No battery acid. It’d be very cool with buttery seafood, like scallops, or even Indian butter chicken, offering contrast.
Hesketh Hidden Garden Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2006
$25; 13% alcohol; screw cap; 93 points
This is bigger, more thought-out sauvignon than your average Kiwi, and certainly a lot more chop than your average Adelaide Hillsbilly. Rather than simple grass and acid, it offers layers of complex tropical salad fruits, with canteloupe, banana, custard apple and jackfruit predominant. There's a cheeky topnote of phosphate and burlap, and a neat turn of Chinese gooseberry acid in the finish, but it's really a grand, healthy, viscous, beauty. All that plush yellow flesh!
Jacques Lurton Touraine Sauvignon Blanc 2008
$22; 12% alcohol; screw cap; drunk 13JAN10; 93 points
Beautifully, headily perfumed, this is the sort of savvyB which makes 99% of Marlborough look like a fresh-mowed golf course. This has a wondrous array of aromas, particularly if decanted and properly gazed upon. Coconut milk, honey, honeydew, canteloupe and prosciutto, star fruit, mango, paw paw, musk ... the more you sit and wallow in this bouquet, the more glory unfolds. The palate's just slightly, fluffily unctuous, with stiff acidity, but a long, savoury, lipsmacking taper where most wines of this variety are short, like a snapped glass rod. The aftertaste is summertime grainy, like an old surf movie. It's very good wine, especially at this minor price!
Moss Brothers Jane Moss Margaret River Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2008
$23; 13% alcohol; screw cap; 93 points
The Jane Moss Gang tastes like it just robbed another train. It’s a “We will burn your train to cinders, so throw your money down”, Levon Helm sort of robbery. What they squeezed outa that train – the passengers had no money – was its burning spirit and heart and every drop of flavour you could get if you’d reallocated that dirty old blacksmithed and boilermakered carbon footprint a million times over in as many combos as you could live to see, and then grew and made the best dry white wine flavour out of all of it. And sell it for thruppunce arpny. Poor old us! Dry, rich, creamy, succulent, stiff, awesome albino semignon. Please remove your dog from my drink. Oh, sorry. It’s your underpants. In that case, put them back in. Ta. Oh? It’s your fur? Naice. Now let’s have the salt and pepper squid. This wine’s so good it’s really funny. Milligan, Sellers, Palin, Brooks, Wilder.
Isabel Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2007
$??; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; 92++ points
Mike Tiller, a pilot, always observed one patch of north-facing frost-free ground as he flew into Marlborough. Eventually he walked on it, sniffed, and dreamed. Layers of limestone and moisture-retentive clay were beneath; against all the sages’ posturing, he and Robyn planted in 1982. This is the stunning result: it’s like licking pumice. It doesn’t conduct electricity: my keyboard just drank a glass of it without a hiccup. Phosphate, carbide, all manner of dry inedible things control the bouquet; the flavours are exquisitely withdrawing. It’s the most accomplished, niggardly Kiwi savvyB I’ve drank. Drunk.
Murdoch Hill Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2009
$19; 13% alcohol; screw cap; tasted JAN10; 92++ points
Since the experts are secretly saying that something like 70% of the Adelaide Hills vineyards are not economically sustainable, the truly reliable beauties, like Murdoch Hill, tend to be lost in the discounted swill. This lovely savvy-B not only cleans up most Hillsbillies, but it slaughters nearly all the Kiwi stuff, which is increasingly catty swill. Made for the growers, Charlie and Julie Downer, by the original master of Hills winemaking, Brian Light, it’s gentle, savoury and delicious, with its varietal edgy grassiness wrapped in an unctuous, silky viscosity that comforts rather than cuts. It’s not complex, but brilliantly-crafted wine from a seriously good vineyard. Squid, please!
Dominique Portet Yarra Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2007
$??; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; 92+ points
He grew up at Chateau Lafite, then founded Taltarni in 1969 and was the first winemaker to employ Mark Shield as a rep. Since then, yon Portet’s regularly delivered wines with the sort of Gallic confidence Obelix shows when delivering menhirs. This whizzer of a drink has some of the flinty monumental stone of the best Marlborough, but also enough tight tropical fruit – carambola; sapodilla – to give heart and soul to that dry geology. 07 was a shit of a year, but this is a saucy, elegant, determinedly dry yet fruitful savvyB. Crayfish wiz beurre blanc.
Moss Brothers Margaret River Sauvignon Blanc 2008
$25; 13% alcohol; screw cap; 92+ points
I know that when you dream up a new winery in Margaret River you first allocate four or five million for your architect to begin dreaming, and, over the years, dollop out more and more, with the odd line, like the scandium magnate or whorehouse investor you are, until you end up handing the label designer another two or three, and then you employ a marketing wanker with a ponytail and an extremely expensive stereo, and he wants an M5 Bimmer for the weekends and a friggin’ Prius with a fold-up scooter in the boot for the working week. Moss Brothers, who have a vital winemaking sister, look like they spent the money mainly on vineyards, getting it right in the vat, and apart from the dream of a rhinestone collar on grandma, just beating it to your door with great value, dead honest, crackling clean dry wines, and the desire for your return custom. They got mine. This is delicious: weighty, lush, creamy, lemony - like sabayon, not gin and tonic - and utterly, disarmingly desirous. Or delicious. Both. Whatever. Drink it with anything that lives between clean beaches. Many times.
Dominique Portet Fontaine Sauvignon Blanc 2006
($22; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; 92 points)
Bibulous buggers and babes who appreciate my disdain for the battery acid/lawn clippings savvy b masquerading as posh suavities from Yadderlaid Hills should slide into a krater of this Yarra Valley cuteness, neat. It’s simple, but it has texture and weight and character and honesty. It doesn’t insult me. It makes me hungry. It cleanses my palate, but leaves a tidy film of its beauty all over my kisser. Scallops steamed with ginger, shallots, and mandarin peel. (25.11.6)
Jacques Lurton Touraine Sauvignon Blanc 2007
$??; 12% alcohol; screw cap; 92 points
The footloose Frenchman made this in the Loire Valley between doing all the other stuff he does from Bordeaux to Kangaroo Island. While it shows to great effect the flint-and-chalk aromas of its source, it still has quite complex fruit - for sauvignon - and more importantly, sufficient fluffy/viscous texture to see it survive a quite vicious chilling, which is hardly necessary, but far too fashionably common in the dim bistros of Australia in these trying times. (People are freezing ALL whites to death and serving MOST reds too warm.) Before very long into the dance, the acidity begins to poke its sharp little tits into your chest, and as you raise your gaze you see the mother, the Cooneyite school librarian, staring at you from the door, spitting behind her hornrims. So it starts out with a lot of complexity, aroma, and promise, but ends up a lot like most good Kiwis or Adelaide Hillsbillies: tight and thin. I will say the stones of the bouquet are still there after the swallowing, which is rare in Down Under savvy-B. 04 MAR 09
O'Leary Walker Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2008
$??; 12.5% alcohol; screw cap; 92 points
Nearly a year of age has helped this Hills Angel grow out of its pinfeathers and lay a couple of eggs. One is the waning of the sharp grassy edge which is okay in some HillsBillies, but they're rare, because that's usually all they've got to show. The other is the rise of an illusion of sweetness, as a viscosity that approaches the slime of ripe pinot gris fills the gaps between the grassy opening shot and the lean flagstone tannins that stretch the finish out til your food bell rings real loud. So it's not Ygrec Y, but it's a real nice afternoon drink that refreshes as much as satisfies, and promotes hunger as much as a cozy half-ripped well-being, which is right up my alley. It won't improve much now, but it won't go away, either. Unless you know what to do with it. Skuvvitch! Crackle!
Philip Shaw No. 19 Orange Sauvignon Blanc 2008
$23; 12.8% alcohol; screw cap; 92 points
From a twenty year old vineyard at 900 metres altitude at Orange, New South Wales, this is a relief from all those grassy/battery acid/catpiss savvys B from the Kiwis. Instead, it's smooth, creamy, and almost buttery. It smells sublime. But it doesn't smell much like savvy B. It smells more like a lower-ranked sparkling white from the French wine region of Champagne. Nice drink, mind you, but nothing Loire about it. Is this really the flavour of that vineyard? If it is, I'd be forgetting the savvy, and going full bore toward making Australia's best chardonnay. 27 APR 09
Cullen Margaret River White 2009
$??; 12% alcohol; screw cap; certified biodynamic, tasted 2-6JUN10; 91 points
This smells at first like lemons bobbing in the rain barrell. Then there's a waft of elderflower honey. The palate is like honey, too, diluted in water from the rainbarrel. With cucumbers. It also tastes a little of loquat. It's a bit like a dowager with freckles, who always sits in the shadow, with the window over her shoulder so you can't see 'em. So it seems even more fragile and demure than it really is. It has vague tannin. Good natural bauxite acid. Poached spatchcock with capers and lemon, please.
Murdoch Hill Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2008
$20; 13% alcohol; screw cap; 91 points
The word Downer has been an integral part of the colony of South Australia for a very long time. But only in English terms: it doesn’t relate much to the incredible timeframes of the former inhabitants, even less to the astonishing yarn of our geology before any human walked anywhere. These Downers, Charlie and Julie, planted a vineyard ten years back, on land upon which different Downers had long fattened beef. A decade back, everyone in the Hills suddenly just had to have a vineyard. Fortunately, these Downers were on fairly high ground, so when the Hill Smiths and the Starving Dogs suddenly began planting grapes all over the Onkaparinga Valley, these Downers also planted, but in a belated stroke of genius hired Brian Light to make the wine. Brian has the magic touch; not to mention decades of experience that few comprehend, especially in the Adelaide Hills. Brian was making exquisite wine in the Hills above Clarendon by 1983. He’s made this wine with more lovely unction and soul than your average Hillsbilly battery acid and nettles putttchiew mouthwash; it actually tastes and feels more like a drink than most Hillsbilly savvy Bs. It’s fine, but still quite waxy and unctuous, with twice the heart and soul of its neighbours. It makes me think of gingery Thai soups with lots of fresh bean sprouts. Not too bad at all. Funny, though. If you weren’t quite game to call it Downer, why on earth would you call it Murdoch? JAN 09
Tiger’s Tale Margaret River Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2006
($16; 12% alcohol; screw cap; 91 points)
There’s a yellow ’43 de Havilland Tiger Moth biplane tied to the lawn outside this winery. The marketing bumpf - there’s a book, too - goes on and on about it, although it’s been decommissioned, which in old mess ling would read rooted, or cactus, like we’d all be if the winemaker’s Old Man had driven us 25,000 kays, London to Perth, without augering in, which he did in that poor old kite. I reckon he’d go on about it a fair bit over port, if you get my drift. Nice drink. www.edwardsvineyard.com.au (2.12.6)
Clown Fish Margaret River Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2009
$21.50; 12.5% alcohol; screw cap; tasted 08JUN10; 90+ points
Stony dry, and grassy in a tidy, modest way, without the battery acid that often accompanies wines of this lighter style, this wine's assisted by the elegant white butter nature of some stylish Semillon. Perfect salt'n'pepper squid accompanist, for that boulevard table in the sun.
Mount Riley Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2006
$16; 13% alcohol; screw cap; 90 points
With wines like this packing the ice buckets up and down our dining boulevards, it’s little wonder our import figure rose by 28.5% in dollar terms last year. This is no great savvy, but at $16, it makes most local stuff look dumb. It manages to have the acrid sharp edge of the variety’s trademark methoxypyrazine, but also enough viscosity to coat the palate and comfort it while that sharper edge is simultaneously cleansing it and making it hungry. Perfect with Greek tucker, seafood pre-eminent.
New Yealands Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2008
$15; 13% alcohol; screw cap; 90 points
Abundant with the skinny, fresh aromas of soursob and pea shells, this Marlborough svunyun (as the Kiwis call it – they also grow pinnerwha) has an added garland of quite sweet cosmetic and confection as much as the usual acrid top edge of dry grass or hessian, all of which adds up mainly to methoxypyrazine, which is that natural grape component of the sauvignon family that smells and tastes like tomato leaf. The palate’s got all the above, including the flavour and texture components which that dash of cosmetic and confection indicated. Without that, the wine would be like too many others: cactus. Literally. This one’s not. It has that nice fleshy soul. In the Awatare foothills, Peter Yealands owns vineyards that look like Coonawarra with some lumps in it, and some others in the Waipara Valley, which is dead flat, and not the place to be when the Lord smites Marlborough with a mighty flood. Yealands believes in sustainable viticulture, which is not a bad idea. This wine does taste just the tiniest bit of cactus, mind you. DEC 08 ... Yealands this week confirmed it was negociating to provide the Australian Yellowtail with fruit 4 MAR 9
The Berrio South Africa Sauvignon Blanc 2007
$20; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; 90 points
This Seth Efriken is prince of the stony bone dry school of savviesB. Ever licked an old Lutheran gravestone in winter? Don’t. Drink this. Grown further south than the Cape of Good Hope, it tastes like freshly-crushed dolomite, for the road. Add lichen. And gooseberry. The oxalic acid of soursob. Nothing chubby or milky about it: it’s thinner than the chill water of the Southern Ocean, and slips like quicksilver from the mouth, leaving just stone and soursob, and a desire for something slightly less Lutheran. Try char-grilled squid, with scallops, chips, and a fag. Vintage Cellars/Liquorland.
Deviation Road Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2008
$??; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; 89 points
Kate Laurie made this admirable Hills Angel savvy blonde. Hamish, her hubby, grew the fruit at 600 metres altitude near Lenswood. On Deviation Road, in fact. It’s a lot more comfy and entertaining than most Hills attempts at this difficult variety, with much more flesh on its lean, athletic, nay, ascetic bones. But it still has plenty of that gooseberry and rhubarb acidity of the sauvignon, keeping the finish fine for your salt’n’pepper squid. No further message. JAN 09
Hollick Coonawarra Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2008
$21; 13% alcohol; screw cap; 89 points
At first, I thought, deary me, Hollick’s kids want Dad to make an excellent savvy-B, like they got in the Land of the Wrong White Crowd. So he did. And here it is. Then I got thinking. It’s not so groady. Cabernet, right, grows well in Coonawarra, and, like it’s from Bordeaux, see. Excellent! Like semillon and savvy-B are from Bordeaux, too. So why not? So here it is. Excellent. No. Groady. The semillon has ingested the savvy with that petiol character that I can’t abide. Other than that, this is very SAFE wine. Neither here nor there, nor distinctive. It could have come from any half-hearted Marlborough fuctory, the Barossa, Mornington ... so. Why bother? Because Australian fizzhags drink savvy-B when the fizz runs out, that’s why. Whole friggin oil tankers full of it. Other than that, this wine offers no particular adornment to the Hollick household, other than financial. You can't blame 'em, because they probly did it to please their distributor. FEB 09
Two Wheeler Creek Kangaroo Island Sauvignon Blanc 2008
$19; 12.5% alcohol; screw cap; 89 Points
Okay. Cool. You’re the austere type who likes your savvyB to set your lips puckering so tight you never get lipstick on your glass. But go to the bathroom and check the mirror. I’ll bet it’s all over your teeth. Oh, sorry, I forgot your bands. Love that purple. It’s blue? You got lipstick in your bands! Never mind: a good slurp of this racy zizzer’ll wash it all off. It’s jammed with cool district leaf: all the methoxypyrazine of broad bean skins or tomato leaves, making a clean, crunchy wine of extreme pucker and zip. If you can just tie that fluffball on the end of your fake gold chain to the leg of your chair long enough to attack your salt’n’pepper squid– oh, sorry - of course - it’s calamari - without getting hair in your mouth - damn, that’s your cigarette, not your fork - or the rhinestone collar in your teeth, oh hell, don’t set fire to your phone - the dog’s eating the squ – calamari, sorry - and don’t forget to take good close notice of the back label that says “drink as quickly as possible”. Gulp.
Cape Mentelle Georgiana Margaret River 2008
$19; 12.5% alcohol; screw cap; 88+++ points
“The blend of these varieties” says the back. Which varieties? Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessey, the owner of this winery, must think we’re French, and no longer care. That’s dumb. Last year’s model was chenin blanc, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and semillon. Maybe they think we don’t like chenin blanc. Maybe they haven’t heard of the stunning chenins – like Dowie Doole Tintookie, Coriole Reserve and Jardim do Bomfim - which sell very well under the proud chenin moniker, no? Mystified bitchery aside, this is very cool wine for its price. The aroma’s gunflinty, probably from aboriginal yeast as much as geology and soil, and the wine’s lean and drying and hollers huskily for lemon-pepper squid and an icebucket in the sun. No simple primary fruit here, other than a twist of pithy lemon in the tail, and some nicely modest viscosity. The bouquet and the texture are what makes it work. WRITTEN LATER THAT SAME DAY: Uh-oh. I just found the blurb. The 08’s savvy-B (45%), semillon (32%), chardonnay (15%), chenin blanc (4%) marsanne (2%) and viognier (2%). So I was a bad boy, initially filing this under chenin blanc. The winery sent me the secret varietal details so I would tell you, rather than them telling you this important information on the back label, where I would have read it, too, and avoided my mistake of erroneous classification. That pithy lemon in the tail is obviously the viognier. Two per cent viognier can change dramatically the style and structure of a mighty shiraz, so only Bacchus knows what the rest of this austere blanc blend tasted like before it got itself viogniated. Nice wine. Sorry for the misunderstanding. It'll be stunning in five years. (18 NOV 08)
Cullen Margaret River White 2008
$19; 12.5% alcohol; screw cap; 88+ points
People are constantly begging me to recommend the best cleanskin. This is the sort of cleanskin I prefer: carefully labelled to explain that it's 66% sauvignon blanc, 24% semillon, 8% chardonnay and 2% verdelho from the Cullen and Mangan vineyards at Willyabrup, Margaret River, Western Australia. It's slightly mealy, like, say really good shortbread, and all those varieties have produced something akin to the aroma of very high quality lemon slice. Towards lemon creme caramel, but more lemon slice. That custardy stuff. I reckon the semillon's the dominant flavour, but, like Vanya says, it's just called White. I never quite know how to categorise such blends, which are probably meant to go in the White Blends class, but then, if the winemaker takes the care to list the component varieties, I reckon they're best filed under the predominant one. And then you get one like this, where the semi's all over the top of the savvy-B. Bugger. I might change my name to Margaret River White. Cuppa white tea, slice of apple strusel, bottle of this, and you can say morning tea's been had. Nice drink. Thanks Marg. MAR 09
Les Nuages Loire Sauvignon Blanc 2006
$15; 12.5% alcohol; screw cap; 88 points
Organic sauvignon from its home in France’s spectacular Loire Valley? At $15? Good-bye New Zealand. And ta-ta to all but a few Hills Angels, for that matter. Only a few local classics can hold off marauders like this, with better, finer wine, but bigger bucks, too. From the Touraine appellation, this should have been the first savvyB any of us tasted. Call it the doorstep. Verdant pasture grasses, rhubarb, buttery Anjou pears and struck flint are the aromas; the flavours are slender, dry, and puckery, but deliciously balanced, and designed to trigger uncontrollable hunger. Crab bisque. Vintage Cellars/Liquorland (16.2.8)
Madfish Western Australia Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2006
$18; 12.5% alcohol; screw cap; 88 points)
Once, at Madfish Bay, near Denmark, WA, I urged my host to use it as a brand. Critter labels barely existed then, but for some reason they put a turtle on it, and when it was a squillion dollar exporter a decade later, they gave me a free baseball cap. Lemon pith, phosphate, honeydew, burlap, and apricot kernels pack the tight bouquet; the palate’s cleansing, but as grainy as an old Bunuel movie. It makes me dream of crispy skin chicken, cinnamon salt, lemon, and money. (13.1.7)
Wehl's Mount Benson Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2009
$17; 13.1% alcohol; screw cap; tasted 10-13JAN10; 88 points
Lemon, star fruit, slaked lime, and that lovely faint dimethylsuphide whiff of pristine dunal coast mark the nose sector of this cheeky, cheap savvy-B. The palate has all those cutting egdes, but also a nice slurpy flesh, making it comforting as well as cutting. So while it'll slice all the fat from your squid, it'll also pat your little palate down, and sooth and comfort and give you time for a fag while that Greek boy takes your plates away. Summertime sunshine drinking: better than 75% of Marlborough.
Bremerton Langhorne Creek Sauvignon Blanc 2008
$18; 12% alcohol; screw cap; 87 points
It seems that winemakers who choose to avoid the grassy methoxypyrazine style of sauvignon blanc tend to instead make very safe, inoffensive wines, at the risk of being bland. This one has some pretty, soapy tones amongst the melon and gentle grasses that stroke its upturned nose, and a palate that seems a tad sweet as well as slightly oily - out there towards pinot gris, texturally. I can't think of what I'd do with this wine. I can't see it bring any of the Kiwi savvy-B enthusiasts back to the Australian fold. FEB 09
$29; 13333.5% alcohol; screw cap; tasted 10-12FEB12; 87 points
Aw. I love the complex vanillins that bolster the lemon and vetiver in this bowl. Fatty acids. And I'm always a sucker for anything that prickles my nose like a working quarry. So I'm ready to drink this. The viscosity's perfect. But then the damn thing slinks off off somewhere, leaving my mouth full of water from the rainbarrel - lemons bobbing in it, usually - and wet pasture grass, like oxalis. It seems short and I seem dissatisfied. And I am not a horse. Like most of the coffee in the world, it never tastes as good as it smells. If it hadna teased me so much, maybe Ida been purring, but I doubt it. Call it a difficult year?
Mountadam Vineyards Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2008
$??; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; 87 points
This wine is not from Mountadam vineyards: the fruit was bought. It has a pleasant, lightly grassy aroma, with a pleasing appetising edge of burlap, which is hemp dried and made into a sack. Like sauvignon blanc, hemp is full of methoxypyrazine, and when it oxidises, it smells like this: dry, but quite appetising. It adds a neat edge to the fresh lawn of the savvy-B and the faint lemon butter of the semillon. The palate's more semillon than savvvy-B to begin: the neat unsalted butter and lemon juice of good cool climate semillon is a pleasant, almost comforting flavour - never so comforting it puts one to sleep however, especially when mixed with savvy-B. So. Do we buy it, Whitey? If the Cooper's battered fish, or the salt'n'pepper squid's right, yep, we do. 10 MAR 09.
Oyster Bay Marlborough New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc 2008
$20; 13% alcohol; screw cap; 87 points
Some stone shows through: river stones, probably. One day the Lord will fill Marlborough with floodwater and all those stones will be refreshed. Some sharp rhubarb and lawn bouquet; that shows through, too. When the Lord sends the water, that lawn will all be washed away, as well. All things will become new. The finish has some sinuous bitter melon about it, lemony acid, and a dribble of sour cream, to fill all those tight verdant cracks. All that will be out in the ocean when the Wairau River really comes down, which it has obviously done before. There's a nice pumice finish, which will no doubt be replenished when the Lord smites the Marlborough marls for greed, oversupply and just being too friggin plain dumb boring, which he shall. Ths getting reeeeally booooring. Don't tempt him! FEB 09
Ten Miles East Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2008
$??; 12.9% alcohol; screw cap; 87 points
Having sold the grand old Koppamurra vineyard near Coonawarra to Brian Croser, John Greenshields moved his winemaking interests to Norton Summit where he pulled out the old Auldwood Cider vineyard and made this. For such a junior vineyard and a difficult vintage, the wine is quite promising. Like its sister riesling, it's alarmingly appley in a neat crunchy way. But this has more complexity in its bouquet, with nice tropicals and peach where too many other Hillsbillies show not much more than battery acid and lawn clippings. This aroma reminds me of the Deviation Road savvy-B, which is from much older vines. While its palate's thinner and more conventional, it already shows little hints of more complexities to unfold as the vineyard grows up. JAN 09
Swings And Roundabouts Margaret River Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2009
$19; 12.5% alcohol; screw cap; tasted 29DEC9; 87 points
I feel like an imposter tasting this. Presuming to understand the market's obsession, I mean. This is a Marlborough oversupply sort, grown and made in the West. Why? Dunno. Too thin; too dim; too simple to admit to. No faults other than the fact that it's in the school I cannot imagine attending. Clean, green, slightly sweet, about as stimulating as a sandpaper sandwich. It'll dissolve all the lippy off the teeth, though. At least in Marlborough, you can get 'em this preppy without adding semillon. It reminds me of Christopher Pyne, for some reason.
Dowie Doole Hooley Dooley 2006
($15; 13% alcohol; screw cap; 86 points)
While they’re like the double-headlight eyes you get with a good shift in The Exeter, they’re actually an easier way of saying Dowie Doole, Drew Dowie and Norm Doole being the makers of this wine, along with Leigh Gilligan, who, with Drew, have two of the grooviest Vales vineyards, if easy on the eyes is any measure. Savvy b, semillon, and viognier are the ingredients; lemon-butter and lime leaves make the bouquet; dry be the palate; chargrilled fish the ideal match.(9.12.06)
$21; 12.5% alcohol; screw cap; tasted 12FEB12; 86 points
Funny how the wettest vintage these guys have had in over thirty years of grapegrowing produces a Sauvignon that could have come from Bordeaux. Its facepowder florals remind me of the dry whites of Peter Vinding-Diers. The Drogemuller family worked hard to select only the healthiest fruit as they picked this vineyard, and left behind anything that looked like the botrytis had got it. But as always occurs in Bordeaux, a little of the old noble rot sneaks through, as if it's begging forgiveness. It adds cream: the fattier acids. But here, the finish is shy to the point of rudeness, very quickly sliding off to leave you with a Savvy-B. Salt and pepper squid in the sun; no talking about wine; just go blo-mo!
Tamar Ridge Devil’s Corner Tasmania Sauvignon Blanc 2007
$17; 13% alcohol; screw cap; 86 points
Dr Andrew Pirie made this scrumptious, apple-crunchy savvy-B from fruit grown in Gunns’ vineyards in the Tamar Valley. The pulp mill will not be grown in their place. The wine is unashamedly zesty and grassy, a touch simple, but built for speed and zing and that transparent ice bucket in the sun up the Parade or King William, but not Rundle Street East, which is now far too pretentious for Australian savvy with the artists arriving and all. The oxalic/rhubarb/soursob edge will cut the greasiest squid into dry, digestible shreds, and chip the thickest lipstick from those brand new incisor caps.
False Cape Kangaroo Island Sauvignon Blanc 2008
$18; 13% alcohol; screw cap; 85 points
The flesh of honeydew melon and the peel of canteloupe; peas and beans; oxalis; mint jelly ... the bouquet here reflects some pretty smart winemaking. But you can’t drag stuff out that’s simply not there, and this leaves me remembering stuff like your average Lenswood savvyB: all grass and no land. Clean, simple fish’n’chip stuff. Like you need on islands.
Alta By Sarah Fletcher Chapter 7 Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2009
$20; 12.5% alcohol; screw cap; tasted 11JAN10; 84 points
Brochure comes from the old French brocher, which means to stitch, mainly in a book. This wine came in very tasteful synthetic silk-lined one-off white box with a dainty brochure, which was stitched like Croser's posh Tapanappa propaganda. So it's a real brochure, and the box looks at least $5 worth, depending, of course, on how many they made. It looks like the finicky, fine work of designer John Nowland: minimalist, creamy white, dependent for its drama on its typeface and white space. The text is of a finer point size than the worst microscopic back labels, which means that lesser eyes than mine will simply never read it. There's even finer stuff on the bottle, but it doesn't say much. The wine smells lemony and slightly pithy, with a sniff of the sort of vegetal stalks and petiols characters you get when the machine harvesters pick more than grapes. The wine has enough unction to get it past the lawn-clippings stage, and it has a certain authority about the way its summer dusty phenolics sit on the palate. Those vegetal characters spoil the aftertaste.
Bay of Shoals Kangaroo Island Sauvignon Blanc 2008
$18; 14% alcohol; screw cap; 84 points
Pea shells, honeydew melon and slices of lemon are the principal evocations in the bouquet; the palate’s more fleshy and squishy than that suggests, but it’s still a little like pigface or cactus or those dunal succulents that dominate too many of these KI savvys-B. They need some flesh on their poor skinny bones. Still, I’ve seen worse stuff flooding in from Marlborough, in the Land Of The Wrong White Crowd, and much more famous ones from Tassie with the same strung-out tendencies. Shall we call them Island characteristics? Does King Island grow sauvignon yet? The Victorians think KI is King Island.
Blue Sand Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2006
$9; 12.5% alcohol; screw cap; 84 points
“Contemporary packaging reflecting Australia’s laid-back lifestyle and pristine environment is enhanced by modern wine styles that over-deliver for the price”, says the blurb. With 180 hectares of grapeyard and 12.8 million litres of tank, blue sand may be all that’s left of this bit of Swan Hill Mallee when they’ve overdelivered it all into impossibly cheap slurps like this crunchy little cup of honeydew and lychee. Fish’n’chips, Colonel Sadness; hammenpineapple pizza. www.apwines.com
Dashwood Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2008
$18; 13% alcohol; screw cap; 83 points
Lemons be here. Rhubarb stalks. Broad bean shells. Freesia blossoms. Pancetta fat. It’s what straightforward unwooded cool climate sauvignon blanc should be like, especially when it comes from the Big Valley of Marlborough. It’s elegant and coolly clean and honest. It’s not too skinny. It’s what the gals want in Double Bay and Hyde Park, and it’s almost priced low enough for them. It’s not quite simply grassy, but it’s getting there: it’s the perfect greasecutter. It’ll peel all the lipstick off your teeth, but watch out for them new bands: they may dissolve. Made by Vavasour, which is a good word for it. Dash the wood! Go sour! Vintage Cellars and 1st Choice.
New Yealands Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2008
$15; 13% alcohol; screw cap; 83 points
Abundant with the skinny, fresh aromas of soursob and pea shells, this Marlborough svunyun (as the Kiwis call it – they also grow pinnerwha) has an added garland of quite sweet cosmetic and confection as much as the usual acrid top edge of dry grass or hessian, all of which adds up mainly to methoxypyrazine, which is that natural grape component of the sauvignon family that smells and tastes like tomato leaf. The palate’s got all the above, including the flavour and texture components which that dash of cosmetic and confection indicated. Without that, the wine would be like too many others: cactus. Literally. This one’s not. It has that nice fleshy soul. In the Awatare foothills, Peter Yealands owns vineyards that look like Coonawarra with some lumps in it, and some others in the Waipara Valley, which is dead flat, and not the place to be when the Lord smites Marlborough with a mighty flood. He supplies most of the fruit for Oyster Bay, and believes in sustainable viticulture, which is not a bad idea. This wine does taste just the tiniest bit of cactus, mind you. Vintage Cellars only.
Sunset Kangaroo Island Sauvignon Blanc 2008
$19; 12.4% alcohol; screw cap; 83 points
More delicate than some of the other Kangaroo Islanders, and with a little more flesh, this one’s promising, but still a bit simple and naive. Candle wax and melon aromas, even faint bacon fat, add some cuddle to the grassy oxalis and lemon pith bits that really cry out for fish’n’chips. Perhaps that’s what these wines are all about, and we shouldn’t expect any more of them.
Cape Mentelle Margaret River Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2008
$28; 12.5% alcohol; screw cap; 82++ points
Gentle honeydew melon and sweet pear slurp about here, in a beautifully elegant, teasing, creamy, confectioner’s assemblage of aromas. But the palate’s drier and more abruptly lemony than that juicy bouquet suggests. Gooseberry and rhubarb, for example. Oxalis. Chalky. Methoxypyrazine tweaks, like tomato leaf. It seems to have been made in a fairly industrial pursuit of a certain style. I reckon it’d be a better drink in two more years. 18 NOV 08
$18; 13% alcohol; screw cap; tasted 10-12FEB12, 82 points
I know. This wine would taste good anywhere on Earth. Well, maybe it would taste better than anything produced locally in most of the places on Earth. It's a neat, grassy little thing with its nail file out and its lips drawn on tight. It's simple and short.
Dudley Grassy Flat Kangaroo Island Sauvignon Blanc 2008
$16; 12.5% alcohol; screw cap; 81 points
Like some of the higher-yielding vineyards of Mornington Peninsula, this flat grassy baby smells of marine dune vegetation: pigface, onionweed, jonquill, capeweed and the like. It’s clean, with lemon pith and juice, but with that much acidity I’d expect a lot more life in the fruit. It’s simple, and thin. Then, I’ve seen lasses slurping stuff twice as skinny at ten times the price on the footpaths of Double Bay...
Woolybud Kangaroo Island Sauvignon Blanc 2008
$20; 11.9% alcohol; screw cap; 81 points
More coastal succulents here: prickly pear, pigface, onion weed, spring onions, whitloof, and fennel are some of the evocations. Then, the palate’s simple and green, with Packham pear flavours. It even had a little of that wet cement character you find in the very best tequilas, which we can’t get in Australia. You can get them at Roberto’s. It’s quite dry and acidic: it may just fill out a little in five or six years, but I doubt it.
Angove’s Long Row Sauvignon Blanc 2007
$10; 11% alcohol; screw cap; 80 points
The Murray Valley has produced some truly awful sauvignons blanc, from battery acid to bongwater. It’s too hot. The grapes cook; acids tumble, and you lose all the crunch that should be the variety’s trademark. But Angove’s has managed to make a beaut cheapie in the harshness of the drought. Early picking has preserved its lean acidity, yet the fruit retains sufficient meagre flesh to promote it above the mere greasecutter: it’s clean, apple-crisp and zippy. Built for fish’n’chips, vinegar, salt, and Tabasco. www.angoves.com.au
Wicks Estate Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2008
$17; 13% alcohol; screw cap; 79 points
Whew! There’s some flesh on this Hillsbilly. It smells like canned pears and apricot. Or peach. Do they still call that sort of thing Two Fruits? The palate’s oily and smooth for savvy-B, and then there’s more oiliness and smoothness. Probably precisely what a lot of good folks need in their lives. Two fruits. But you wouldn’t have it with corn flakes and cream, would you.
Rookery Kangaroo Island Sauvignon Blanc 2008
$18; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; 78 points
Like its Island neighbours, this has a lemony, grassy, edgy bouquet full of the tomato leaf character called methoxypyrazine, which is a distinguishing factor common to cabernet sauvigon and sauvignon blanc. But while its aroma is perhaps a little finer and better balanced than its rivals, its palate seems a touch flabby and broad, and lacks the finesse hinted at in the bouquet.
Two Wheeler Creek Kangaroo Island Sauvingon Blanc 2007
$19; 12% alcohol; screw cap; 78 points
All that methoxypyrazine has turned to raw capeweed in this one...like you just minced a perfect example with the mower. If complex secondary characters ever rise to fill the gaps left when the primary fruit expired, it may resurrect a little, but well. Don’t bother. What you have here is a like a rainbarrel with a few lemons bobbing in it. This is probably why the 2008 model advises the customer to “drink as quickly as possible”. It’s a gumsucker, but it has little depth and less excitement.
The Terrace Heights Estate Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2008
$16; 13% alcohol; screw cap; 73 points
“From the ground up ... back to basics ... nurtured with passion” ... such claims never sit comfortably with hard, thin, repetitive acids like this. If this is what everyone’s drinking, then everyone must feel guilty about their expenditure and pleasure over the last decade or two, and feel like purging themselves. This is, as the Old Testament prescribed for the penitent, “the wormwood and the gall” – the bitterest things a penitent could find to cleanse the ordurous canker of sin from their soul. We’ve forgotten grace, balance, beauty and the wholesome sins of the flesh. This is devoid of flesh. It’s good sauvignon blanc of the Marlborough school, sure, but I’m a carnal bastard. You could drink this with Exclusive Brethren. But it’s exclusive to Vintage Cellars and 1st Choice.
Zilzie Selection 23 Murray Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2008
$9; 10.5% alcohol; screw cap; 65 points
"Why selection 23?" jokes the back label. "No, our winemakers didn't just get it wrong the first 22 times." I reckon they got it wrong long before they even picked this: the variety doesn't work in hot places. Which renders nonsensical the next line: "Four generations on the Forbes family have established some of the finest vineyards in the region...". Once you've got that far into the mire, you don't then say "Vibrant and approachable, these consistently great wines are made for any occasion and are best enjoyed with good food and great company ... gooseberry and mint leaves on a bed of tropical fruits". If this is from the finest vineyards in the region, the region is cactus. The wine is not vibrant. It is not great. It smells like lemons floating in a rusty old rainbarrel. I can't see gooseberry there, nor mint. A bed of tropical fruits? Nah. Any occasion? Time must be cheap on the River. Great company? Who? Al Grassby? This is bland, broad, tanky, overpriced wine that bears no resemblance to any of the sauvignons blanc that I have been taught to respect. They should have left this water in the River. 29 MAR 09