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Winemakers in New Zealand, who are gearing up to celebrate Sauvignon Blanc Day on May 7 in honour of the country’s most popular varietal, face lower grape yields this harvest that threaten to spoil next year’s party.
Cooler spring weather and late frosts in vineyards led to a smaller harvest than usual, with pinot noir and chardonnay yields potentially cut in half and pinot gris down as much as 60 per cent of normal yields. The estimates for sauvignon blanc suggest a reduction of 30 per cent to 40 per cent, which could mean a shortfall of more than 100 million bottles of wine to satisfy global demand.
“There will be some variability across different parts of the country, but the industry is anticipating a significantly smaller vintage across several New Zealand wine regions this year,” says Philip Gregan, chief executive officer of New Zealand Winegrowers.
While winemakers across the country are praising the top quality of the wines being produced, considering the increased concentration and intensity of flavours that comes from reduced yields, most will struggle to supply their established markets.
The popularity of New Zealand’s sauvignon blanc soared during the pandemic as many consumers gravitated to styles of wine that they knew they enjoyed as opposed to seeking out something new or unexpected. As a result, inventory was at low levels going into the 2021 grape harvest. New Zealand wine is currently exported to more than 100 countries.
“We are already seeing supply-and-demand tension as a result, and we expect that many wineries will face tough decisions on who they can supply in their key markets over the next year,” Gregan says.
It’s too soon to say what the total shortfall will be, but Canadian consumers can hope that the country’s long-time support of New Zealand’s wineries and the buying clout of the various provincial liquor boards will secure necessary supply in the months to come. In the meantime, there’s a wide assortment of sauvignon blancs from Marlborough and other wine regions readily available. Here are some strong examples that I have tasted recently, including one concentrated and flavourful sauvignon blanc from the northern reaches of Chile with serious wow factor.
Loveblock Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2019 (New Zealand), $23.95
Loveblock is the legacy project of Kim and Erica Crawford, who sold their namesake operation in 2006. The couple own all their vineyards and have total control of the Loveblock brand and its wines. They farm organically and produce styles they feel best express Marlborough’s cooler Awatere Valley region – such as this nicely concentrated and flavourful dry white. The firm texture makes this a cut above most regional sauvignon blancs. Available at the above price in Ontario, direct through thevineagency.com, $33.98 in British Columbia, various prices in Alberta, $25.99 in Manitoba, $29.99 in Nova Scotia.
Mud House Sauvignon Blanc 2019 (New Zealand), $19.99
Made in a refreshing and inviting style, this Marlborough sauvignon blanc offers an attractive mix of fruit, herbal and floral notes. Nicely balanced with a crisp finish, this is an appealing white that delivers the expected New Zealand sauvignon blanc character. Drink now. Available in British Columbia at the above price, various prices in Alberta, $19.05 in Quebec, $21.99 in Newfoundland.
Seven Terraces Sauvignon Blanc 2019 (New Zealand), $18.99
Another classic take on the conventional Marlborough style, this is bright and citrusy with some guava and jalapeno accents. It’s refreshing and enjoyable, especially suited to warm-weather imbibing. Drink now. Available in British Columbia at the above price, various prices in Alberta.
SOHO White Collection Peggy Sauvignon Blanc 2020 (New Zealand), $19.95
This strikes a nice balance between the refreshing and flavourful natures of the sauvignon blanc grape. It captures a bright lemony character with riper mango and guava accents that give it mass appeal. Drink now to 2023. Vegan friendly. Available in Ontario.
Stoneleigh Lighter Sauvignon Blanc 2020 (New Zealand), $17.95
Information shared on the label of Stoneleigh’s lighter white relates how the sauvignon blanc grapes are picked early in the harvest so there’s less sugar to convert into alcohol. The result is a white wine with 9.5 per cent alcohol marked by grassy, pea pod, lime and grapefruit notes, without any of the riper spectrum of peach or tropical fruit notes. A boast in residual sweetness helps to round out the flavour profile. Drink now. Available in Ontario at the above price, $16.99 in British Columbia, various prices in Alberta, $20.49 in Saskatchewan, $17.55 in Quebec, $19.99 in Nova Scotia.
Te Awanga Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2019 (New Zealand), $23.95
Te Awanga is a family-owned estate that farms around 70 hectares of vineyards in New Zealand’s Hawke’s Bay region. The warmer growing season in there helps to produce this richer, riper expression of sauvignon blanc. Marked by tropical fruit, tree fruit and some anise and elderflower notes, this is a harmonious and elegant white wine. Drink now to 2025. Available in Ontario.
The Hunting Lodge Expressions Vibrant Sauvignon Blanc 2019 (New Zealand), $19.95
This classic and refreshing sauvignon blanc is remarkably vibrant and pure. It’s also fruity, fragrant and easy to appreciate. An edge of green, with a mix of lively and bright citrus and tropical notes. Drink now to 2023. Available in Ontario
Thornbury Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2020 (New Zealand), $19.99
Made in a simple and enjoyable style, this delivers textbook tropical and herbaceous aromas and flavours, including dill, green pepper and passion fruit. It’s safe and rewarding, just the thing for consumers who delight in the pleasing and refreshing Marlborough style. Drink now. Available in British Columbia at the above price, $18.95 in Ontario.
Undurraga T.H. Sauvignon Blanc 2018 (Chile), $22.95
T.H. stands for Terroir Hunter, Undurraga’s label for small batch wines, typically single vineyard ones from a diversity of Chile’s regions. Hailing from a vineyard owned by another winery near the coast in Limari, this sauvignon blanc is made in a zesty and intense style that’s not for everyone. It’s aggressively green, with vibrant lime zest and citrusy notes adding some flesh to the mix of fennel, dill and jalapeno flavours. Overwhelming for some, just right for adventurous wine lovers. Drink now to 2025. Available in Ontario at the above price, $21 in Quebec.