Friday, November 29, 2013

Kim Crawford acclaims vintage of a lifetime

Just as New Zealand’s Kim Crawford Winery proclaims its 2013 Sauvignon Blanc as its best ever vintage, Jancis Robinson has rained on the Sauvignon Blanc parade.

In a late October article in the Financial Times, she wrote: “Although there was a time when other non-European countries were deeply envious of New Zealand’s having an emblematic grape … this is decidedly out of fashion. Diversity is in …”

Her comment was triggered by attending a New Zealand wine tasting in London hosted by three top New Zealand wineries. They brought a total of 50 wines and not one was Sauvignon Blanc. They were showing Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Riesling.

A few days after that article, I found myself sharing a glass of wine (Red Rooster Pinot Blanc!) at Vancouver International Airport with Mark Rattray, a New Zealand winemaker on his way back home after working the vintage for Skimmerhorn Winery in Creston.

As an aside, he is one of two New Zealand winemakers working for Creston wineries. Dan Barker makes the wine for Baillie-Grohman. Both have been doing this for several years, taking advantage of the fact that vintage in the northern hemisphere corresponds to the off-season for winemaking down under.

I mentioned the Jancis Robinson comment to Mark. He replied that Sauvignon Blanc may be out of fashion in Britain but markets in the United States and China still can’t get enough of it.

Jancis was not dissing Sauvignon Blanc. She was just pointing out that 85% of the New Zealand wine sold in Britain is Sauvignon Blanc and suggesting, perhaps, that New Zealand has too many eggs in one basket.

I would agree that New Zealand has very exciting Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Riesling. While Pinot Noir’s fashion has been rising for almost a decade, I wonder whether consumers have overcome the “anything but Chardonnay” syndrome.

New Zealand has had Sauvignon Blanc vineyards in the Marlborough region (top of the south island) for at least 40 years. The Kim Crawford winery, which was founded in 1996, has its Sauvignon Blanc vineyards in Marlborough.

Anthony Walkenhorst, Kim Crawford’s chief winemaker, says: “We only got serious about growing Sauvignon Blanc in Marlborough 30 to 40 years ago, so that’s as far back as we can go in comparing vintages. The 2013 vintage will easily be among the best … or the best of the past 20 to 30 years.”

The 2013 vintage in Marlborough benefited from exceptional grape growing weather, with warm days, cool nights and with rain when required but none at harvest. In fact, it was the driest season in Marlborough in 70 years. The result: healthy grapes full of flavour.

Now the British may choose to miss out on a vintage of a lifetime. We don’t have to. Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc 2013 is among the 31 New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs listed in British Columbia.

If it was a vintage of the lifetime for Kim Crawford, it stands to reason that most of the 2013s will also be very good. In going through the LDB’s list, I see that many of the Sauvignon Blancs still are from 2011 and 2012. A number of them currently are being sold at a slight discount, including an earlier vintage of Kim Crawford. It is $17.99 until the end of the year. I wonder if the discounts are an effort to move older vintages before the fabulous 2013s get here.

Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc is the only 2013 I have tasted. It lives up to its billing. Here is my note.

Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc 2013 ($19.99). This is a classically dramatic Sauvignon Blanc, with aromas of lime, grapefruit, guava, herbs and fresh green grass exploding from the glass. The herbal and lime flavours carry over to the tangy and refreshing palate. The mineral backbone and the fresh acidity give the wine a laser-sharp focus. The zesty finish is long and lingering. 92


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