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New Zealand: Beyond Sauvignon Blanc

New Zealand: Beyond Sauvignon Blanc

Matt Pym proves that there is more to New Zealand wine than Sauvignon Blanc…

One of the joys of a life in the wine trade is the ability to travel to exotic locations, where one meets great people, eats amazing food and if you plan it right, can fit in a spot of fishing/golf/cricket watching at the same time. Not to mention enjoy the odd glass or two of wine. No doubt you could package the whole thing up and sell it to Millennials as a ‘life experience’, but hey, this is my job.  Someone has to do it.

Awatere Valley vineyards, overlooked by Mount Tapuae-o-Uenuku

Last stop was Marlborough, a sensationally picturesque two-hour drive over the Whangamoa Hills and past the Marlborough Sounds.  Then again, most drives in New Zealand are sensationally picturesque. I was here to catch up with my old mate Louis Vavasour, whose ancestors include Norman Earls and Barons, and very possibly the real life character behind Maid Marion (Maud le Vavasour).

What is more certain is that his family are synonymous with Marlborough; his parents were the first to plant grapes in the Awatere Valley in the south of the region, now recognised as one of the premier places to grow grapes in New Zealand. While Louis obviously makes Sauvignon Blanc – and very good it is too – he has created a range of wines that are decades in their planning and creation.

The ‘LV by Louis Vavasour’ range of wines are the culmination of decades of knowledge, experimentation, trial and error, success and failure. By 2016, Louis was finally convinced that he had found the best place to grow world-class Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and recently has released the first vintages of these wines. He only makes minute quantities of these, around 3,600 bottles of the Méthode Traditionelle fizz, and only 2,000 each of the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir – and they will only be made if the vintage is deemed good enough. They get every care and attention a wine could wish for and, importantly, a lightness of touch. So many so called ‘icon’ wines are simply ‘look at me‘ wines, with more alcohol, more oak, more power, but often less charm and enjoyment. Not so here; these are wines with the concentration of fruit and flavour to express their roots and terroir, and to age gracefully, but not to over-power the lucky drinker. As Louis puts it “These are classic styles, made in a bold manner. The focus is on purity, texture, concentration and longevity, with a hell of a lot of personality!”  We’re fortunate that an allocation makes its way to our shores, but stocks are very limited so you may need to act quickly to secure any of these.

LV by Louis Vavasour Méthode Traditionelle Sparkling Wine, Marlborough

Made in the classic Champagne method, from a blend of 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay, this is a sleek and stylish wine that eclipses many well regarded Champagnes.

A pure and tight knit palate, with notes of biscuit and toasted brioche alongside red berries and lemon sherbet. This wine is delicious now, but it’s only going to improve for at least the next five years.  3,621 bottles produced in total.

Exclusively imported by Charles Mitchell Wines – £599/12 bottle case

LV by Louis Vavasour Chardonnay 2016, Marlborough

All hand-picked fruit, and fermented and matured in mostly new French oak barrels, largely fermented by natural wild yeast and with full malolactic fermentation, this is a sumptuous and bold take on classic Chardonnay. Think top quality Meursault in terms of style and elegance, but with that pure new world fruit expression and richness; all nutty, creamy, lemony deliciousness.

Any true Chardonnay lover needs to taste this, but again there’s no rush to do so as this is built for the long term.  2,330 bottles produced in total.

Exclusively imported by Charles Mitchell Wines – £695/12 bottle case

 LV by Louis Vavasour Pinot Noir, Marlborough

Again, made in a classic Burgundian style, this has two years maturation in largely new French oak puncheons (big, 500L barrels). This is so silky in texture, with such pure Pinot fruit.

It has a lot in common with very high end red Burgundy, but also with the best Pinots from California that also attain that supple, rich fruit purity. Alongside these fresh red fruits, there are hints of cinnamon and spice, and enormous length – this is an epic wine!  2,221 bottles produced in total.

Exclusively imported by Charles Mitchell Wines – £795/12 bottle case

What a good bunch the kiwis are!

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