I always feel a sense of hope, excitement with my first taste of the new vintage, illogical as that might be. The first taste of a wine from the New Zealand vintage has absolutely nothing to do with what that vintage’s wine will taste like from, say, Bordeaux. No matter: I still approach it with optimism as a harbinger of wines to come. The natural order of things proceeds…
Unless it is a total disaster, most regions praise the new vintage early on. “It was hot, but we still managed to make balanced wine.” “There were thunderstorms, but we managed to get the harvest in right before them.” This makes sense as the livelihoods of many people depend on selling the wine. Also, vintage variation is becoming less of an issue than it was in the past – global warming is making wine regions on the outskirts of grape-growing viability more stable.
All of that said, it’s still fun to taste the new vintage.
I recently had dinner with Brancott Estate Chief Winemaker Patrick Materman because they were launching Chosen Rows, a super-premium Sauvignon Blanc made with hand-selected fruit from their best vineyards in Marlborough.
The aperitif was the Brancott Estate Classic Sauvignon Blanc 2015. My first 2015! The wine, which should sell for about $15 per bottle, was very clean with pretty white flowers and mandarin notes on the nose. It was medium bodied and had a medium level of acidity. It was delicious; something a friend of mine would call “a porch pounder.”
The 2013 Chosen Rows, though, was the star of the evening. It was initially tasted against five other well-regarded Sauvignon Blancs:
- 2010 Dog Point Section 94 (Marlborough – $28)
- 2010 Cloudy Bay Te Koko (Marlborough – $42)
- 2010 Brancott Estate Chosen Rows (Marlborough – $80)
- 2010 Daugueneau Silex (Pouilly-Fumé – $110)
- 2010 Château Smith Haut Lafitte (Bordeaux – $150)
This is a Sauvignon Blanc that will age well. The 2013 vintage was too young, but the 2010 was the best wine from that year in Marlborough. While it’s a lovely wine, the Château Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc doesn’t appeal to me as much as some of the others because of the oak aging, but I think the Daugueneau Silex is a stunning wine. I thought it took nerve and confidence to show the Brancott against that.
While I preferred the Daugueneau Silex, I thought the Brancott Estate Chosen Rows was the second best in the group of 2010s. It was followed by the Cloudy Bay Te Koko. All in all it was an edifying evening – and I had my first 2015!
The author also recommends:
The first wine of the 2014 vintage
The first rosé of the 2014 vintage