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Winner Details

Varietal Classics: New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc

2014: Gold: 2; Silver: 7; Bronze: 2; Commended: 5
2013: Gold: 1; Silver: 3; Bronze: 5
Must-list index: 100%
Overall performance SWA 2014: B-

The Varietal Classic section is a Ronseal part of the Sommelier Wine Awards. Wines should do exactly what they say on the label. But there are times when our tasters run into problems, and this was one of them.

‘Usually, this flight all taste broadly the same and you struggle to find differences – but this year there were big differences,’ said team leader Tom Forrest, with the look of someone who’s tuned in to Panorama and ended up with The Voice.

There is a fair bit of exciting winemaking going on in Marlborough at the moment, as producers experiment with lees ageing and even time in oak – hence the bigger spread of wine styles. All of which might be good for the wider development of the country, but doesn’t necessarily make for wines that the punter, particularly, would think of as being typical.

‘The best of our flight was the cheapest in one sense,’ mused consultant Martin Lam. ‘It was the most typical. Once you move upmarket the wine styles diverge.’

The most common divergence was either bigger and richer or more linear and Sancerre-like. There were fans of both styles – and in fact our two Gold-Listed wines were one of each: the Tinpot Hut leafy and ‘Awatere-like’ in style; the Nobilo Icon far more plush and tropical.

Strangely, price wasn’t mentioned much. You could argue that this is such a key style that price is less relevant. But several tasters also mentioned that New Zealand ‘no longer has Sauvignon Blanc all to itself’ and that they’re happy to source the cheap stuff from South Africa and Chile instead nowadays.

Either way, it was noticeable that the bottles are, broadly speaking, a pound more expensive on average than a year ago. While 2013 had a fair spread of medals sub-£8, there were hardly any this year. And in that context, Awatere Pass and Ara’s Silver medal-winning wines deserve real credit.


Another Gold for Tinpot Hut in the Varietal Classics section, following up its Pinot Grigio with a Kiwi Sauvignon.


From the Tasting Teams

‘It was a good flight – the question is whether customers are going to be happy with something this good when they are looking for something a little more obvious and mainstream.’ Paul Quintela, The Cricketers

‘There was a definite shift halfway through our flight. After the £9 area we found depth, freshness and quality of fruit; less herbaceous, but still with good minerality.’ Robert Mason, Cheese at Leadenhall

‘For New Zealand you have to be prepared to pay a 20% premium.’ Gergely Barsi Szabó, Bread Street Kitchen

FOOTNOTE: The price limit for the Varietal Classics categories is £12 ex-VAT