Rightly or wrongly, I approach Australian Sauvignon Blanc with a degree of nervousness. Few would argue we do this varietal consistently well and I’ve struggled to identify regions with the sort of notable character achieved in other areas famous for the grape. Orange may yet surprise us. As with Pinot Gris, I’ve been impressed with the region’s ability to produce some Sauvignon Blancs with zing and freshness, hinting at a distinctiveness that makes a region/varietal combination truly shine. This is a great example of what I mean.
The aroma is pungent and forthright, showing a range of notes from tropical fruit to nettles via a good old backyard lemon tree. It’s utterly varietal and, if it doesn’t quite reach the distinctive heights of a Marlborough example, neatly avoids the insultingly confected vibe one still encounters way too often amongst local wines. I’d like to see this taken a step or two towards the edge; I feel there’s an angularity here that is being held back by conservative winemaking but which might make this something truly special.
Perhaps the level of residual sugar is the culprit, a component that is clearer on the palate thank on the nose. Entry is bright and vivid thanks to a decent whack of acid, backed up by a gush of sweetish citrus flavour. Things threaten to become disappointingly conventional until the middle palate injects all sorts of mineral, savoury complexity. All of a sudden, this looks like it’s punching well above its weight, a continuation of sizzly mouthfeel propping up an increasingly adult flavour profile. The after palate and finish die somewhat, as is typical for this varietal, though there’s a half-strength dose of sweet fruit that persists stubbornly well beyond the point at which this wine ought to have departed.
I think there’s real potential here; I’d love to see the style making fewer concessions to perceived popular tastes.