Getting my Summer Addiction Fix: More Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc

The Back Story:

I like to think I’ve had a decent amount of wines in my day. I’ve had wine from 5 continents, almost 50 varietals, and I have in stock several wines from regions and varietals I haven’t tried before. So why, why WHY the hell do I keep drinking Sauvignon Blancs? Not just any Sauvignon Blanc, either, but New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs. Not just New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs, but Marlborough, New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs.

To feed my addiction, I had my local wine shop, Hillsborough Wine Company, special order me the rest of the Sauvignon Blancs produced by Barker’s Marque, the producers of which have been fairly dedicated to seeking out mentions of their product online. Thus, earlier this week, I picked up the Barker’s Marque 2009 Arona and 3 Brooms. I’ve already blogged twice about the ranga.ranga, so I didn’t need to order that one.

You’ve had a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, so you know what to expect, right? If not, the ranga.ranga post can serve as a reminder. Basically, grapefruit, puckering acidity, citrus, crisp flavor, clear color, a touch of herbs and grassiness. Residual sugar is typically 2 to 4 grams per liter, strictly in the dry, dry, DRY range. That combined with an acidity somewhere around the 3.30 pH mark makes it really feel like biting into a grapefruit.

The 2009 Barker’s Marque Arona adds 6% Riesling to a base of 94% Sauvignon Blanc to shoot all sorts of holes in that perception. I can honestly say I’ve never had a Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough that tasted quite like this. Quite like what? Well…

The Results:

Arona Sauvignon Blanc pouredThe appearance of the wine is a very pale straw. It’s not quite as clear as the ranga.ranga was but it’s definitely got the Sauvignon Blanc clarity.

The nose of the wine couples citrusy and tropical notes with a very cool alcohol scent. Lime, sage, and passion-fruit leap forward from the glass, pungent and ripe.

The mouth feel of the wine is fantastically smooth. The alcohol (13%) gives it a very light, delicate feel, which combines with the crisp acidity (3.30 pH) for a very active, tangy sensation. It just feels alive.

The flavor of the wine is where things get interesting. You know that typical Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc flavor? Yeah, forget about it. This wine has a hint of that citrusy grapefruit and grass, but the real show here is some soft, sweet, ripe tropical goodness. Rich flavors of nectarine and passionfruit dominate the palate, aided by a comparably potent sweetness (5.3 g/l residual sugar). The flavor is wonderfully juicy, like tropical fruit nectar. The finish brings us back to the terroir, with lime and sage lasting and lingering.

As the wine develops in the glass, coming closer to room temperature, the tropical fruits open up on the nose and become even more pungent on the palate. This is a very, very active wine.

For the Casual Drinker:

For those of you turned off by the aggressiveness of Sauvignon Blancs, especially New Zealand’s, you’ll want to give this guy a try. It’s remarkably tame compared to its local compatriots, though it still has a decent zing to it. The flavors are much less overwhelmingly acidic, providing a soft tropical base and a pleasant sweetness. Because the sweetness has increased, the pairing options differ from the typical exotic fare that a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc would match. You could handle a white meat or seafood entrée with a bit of spice, though the structure isn’t quite there for Asian cuisine.

The Conclusion:

There are many, many Marlborough Sauvignon Blancs out there. Most of them are very, very similar to each other. If you want to try something different, the Arona is a good place to start. It’s only $13, and it’s a bargain at that price. 8/10

In Case You Missed It:

Wine: Arona

Producer: Barker’s Marque

Varietal(s): 94% Sauvignon Blanc, 6% Riesling

Vintage: 2009

Residual Sugar: 5.3 g/l

Alcohol: 13%

pH: 3.30

note:: After I initially failed to list the vital stats on the wine I reviewed on Monday (i.e. what the wine was actually called), I revised my format to add this final section. Inspiration hails from Drink Nectar and Vinotology. This section will also keep me from being lazy about researching my wines. This stuff’s important, y’know?

What Wine Pairs with Filing Your Taxes?

I don’t know about all of you, but I was in no hurry to get my taxes done. It’s a combination of future knowledge of my lack of willpower (that return would probably end up being invested in a ridiculous wine shopping spree if I got it today) and the overwhelming prospect of filing not one, not two, not three, but FOUR W-2s this year, one of which was from a company that went defunct last summer. As such, I put it off. For a long time. I finally got all my W-2s together around the end of February and… just did not want to take the next daunting step.

Last night, I finally took the plunge and began the arduous task of allowing an electronic program to compile all my information for me. Since I was essentially punching in numbers over… and over… and over… and over, I had a hand free for a glass of wine. Which wine would go well with swallowing the bitter pill of last-minute taxation, but with a long reward in the making? The 2009 ranga.ranga Sauvignon Blanc, of course.

ranga.ranga, like all of the Barker’s Marque line-up, is a New Zealand wine from the Marlborough wine region. Marlborough is inherently suited to growing dry white wine, what with the cooler growing season and unusually dry, sunny weather. Though the weather is incredibly dry, the soil is almost entirely clay, allowing it to hold just enough water to keep the vines healthy without an overabundance. A hefty sea breeze perpetually blows through the valley, keeping temperatures down. The 2009 ranga.ranga is somewhat of an anomaly in that, while their Sauvignon Blancs are usually a blend of different vineyard grapes, this vintage is entirely comprised of fruit from the Muritai vineyard in the Awatere Valley, which means the acidic, aggressive wine qualities the above conditions would create are  increased even further.

From here on out, I’ll let the wine speak for itself.

The Results:

The appearance of the wine is almost entirely colorless. It has a very slight yellow tint, and its viscosity seems fairly low. I would expect this wine to have a lighter body and a thinner, but not weak, texture.

The nose of the wine is very interesting. It’s tropical and citrusy with a very distinct lime and passion fruit, and a slight, cool alcohol scent makes an appearance. There’s an unusual herbaceous quality to it and an effervescence that contributes to an overall smell of a lime-flavored tonic water. It smells wonderful.

The mouth feel of the wine is extremely vibrant. It’s hard to describe. Theres a puckering bite to it, and you can tell it’s got a ton of acidity, but it’s not overwhelming or uncomfortable. It’s somehow quite smooth.

The flavor of the wine is incredibly complex. It’s actually more medium-bodied, the alcohol holding up the aggressive flavors extremely well (13% alc). The attack is very citrusy, a lemon-lime, grapefruit, and tropical fruit mash-up that matches the high acidity very well. There’s a distinct array of green flavors, with grass clippings, green bell pepper, and a hint of green chili. The acidity comes forward even more so on the finish, which provides the flavors and sensations you would get from biting into a slice of fresh, ripe lemon. I would typically say the acidity is a little high in a wine as light as this, but I really think it works here. Every flavor in this wine benefits from the vibrancy the acid provides. You want dry? This wine gives you dry. The acidity comes in at a  3.27 pH, and the residual sugar barely tops 2 g/l.

For the Casual Drinker:

Don’t be fooled by the light color and the relaxed-looking label; this wine is an aggressive specimen. The sugar is low, the acidity is high, and the flavors are active and complex. It’s perfectly suitable to drinking on its own, but it would match really well with a spicy chicken or seafood meal. Believe me, it could hold its own against the spice. The acidity is dangerous for heartburn, so be prepared for that. This is a fantastic outdoorsy sort of wine. It just smells and tastes like a summer party after a hard day of gardening and yardwork. It’s the wine equivalent of a productive day.

The Conclusion:

Great wine, great price. $12 gets you a fantastic, aggressive, and complex wine. An anecdotal testament to this wine: after I did my tasting, I poured it out to share, and the immediate reaction was a loud, “Wow! I LOVE this wine.” 7/10

It’s available online from several retailers, but Raleigh-Durham-area readers can pick this wine up at Weaver Street Market. Buy local!

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