Waipara Hills Marlborough Cuvée NV

Dedicated readers of Full Pour (and I thank you both) may have noticed a relative paucity of posts from me these last few weeks. I’ve been busy finishing off semester two of my winemaking studies, and am happy to report the year’s last exam was taken yesterday. So, for now, I am free of the little nagging voice that has been urging me to study rather than taste wine or, generally, have a life.

I thought I’d drink something special to celebrate this milestone. Instead, I’ve opened a bottle of sparkling Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.

Okay, so that’s a cheap shot. Indeed, this is better than my recollection of the only other wine in this style I have tasted, the Mount Riley Savée 2007, and demonstrates how the style may need to evolve to be taken (relatively) seriously. Unlike the Mount Riley wine, this shows only hints of the overt varietal character that is so apparent on still wines of this grape and region. Personally, I believe that’s a mature stylistic approach – after all, one doesn’t drink Champagne to experience sparkling white Burgundy. A sparkling ought, in my opinion, to be a reinterpretation of the variety, reframing its character on quite different terms from any still wine that shares its parent grape. The mousse here is pretty aggressive and short-lived, leading to a surprisingly fine bead. There’s still some grassiness and a bit of passionfruit, but it’s muted and accompanied by a general savoury vibe that contributes complexity and grown up-ness.

This is less lively in the mouth than some sparklings, which was signalled by the bead and may be attributable to this bottle as much as anything else. No matter, there’s plenty of acidity and an astringency of flavour profile that together generate a lot of impact. The primary fruit flavour is again cut grass and some passionfruit, with a whole bunch of savoury detail around the edges. Sophisticated? Not especially. But not a bad attempt at balance given the raw materials and class of wine. A nice twist of honey through the after palate, and a lightly citrus-driven finish.

Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc polarises drinkers and this wine can’t escape the legacy of its heritage. However, for those with an open mind, it’s an interesting exercise in what might be for not a lot of money.

Waipara Hills
Price: $A22
Closure: Cork
Source: Sample

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