This is a lightweight, unassuming squat little bottle of almost-clear but slightly limey Sauvignon Blanc from the New World capital of Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand.
I bought it from Asda, where I’ve bought a lot of my wine, and a lot of my New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, over the last few years. It’s never the best. Sometimes it’s the worst, and I vow never to waste my money there again. But, in all honesty, sometimes it’s pretty good, and it can certainly deliver in the mid-quality, good-value area, presuming the vineyards can produce enough bottles to fill the countless shelves of the Asda stores across this supermarket-friendly nation.
They probably grow more of this grape in Chile; they almost definitely make more of it in California, but New Zealand has made the market its own over the past couple of years by producing slick, mid-range, ten-to-twenty-pound-a-bottle Sauvignon Blancs that are greener than solar panels and more acidic than… erm… sulphuric acid. And they tend not to be as wet or cat-pee heavy as many of these varietals have been famed (“infamed”?) for over the years.
Why’s this bottle special?
A crisp, acidic aroma with a hint of melon and (dare I say it?) kiwi accompanying the more prominent citrus tones. A sharp, zingy feel on the palate – almost more sensation than flavour, and a bitter but not unpleasant finish of lemons with barely a hint of the butteriness you might find in, say, a central French take on this grape. A perfectly adequate accompaniment to a fish-finger sandwich, as long as you go easy on the tartare sauce and try not to overdo the ketchup. All-in-all, an unsurprising and uninspiring but in no way unpleasant New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.
It could have been grown elsewhere, but you’d probably guess New Zealand if backed into a corner and threatened with a bottle to give your answer. (Let’s say a broken bottle, because that would be less likely to have the necessary information left over from the label.)
So, yes, back to what makes it special: it cost £5 (five pounds).
Maybe you shop somewhere else. (I hope you do: Asda is pretty bland when it comes to wine.) Maybe for you a five pound bottle of NZ SB is nothing to post a wine review about. But for me, any wine being that cheap and not making me retch is a laudable achievement.
And a New Zealand wine? Well, to be honest I’m not sure if I like finding a New Zealand wine retailing at £5, even if it does taste all right. New Zealand is perhaps the only country I’m aware of that until now has tended not to sell itself on price alone. Its wines have been “cooler” than their Aussie counterparts in more ways than one: Pinot Noirs and Sauvignon Blancs making up more of the mix than Shirazes and Chardonnays, sure; but NZ’s exports also have an understated classiness about them that says “Hey, why not pay a few pounds more?”
What next? £5 New Zealand Pinot Noir? Much as part of me would like to see that. Another (hopefully more persuasive) part of me never, ever, ever wants to see that.
My worry is that with the birth of the Asda five pound New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, we, as customers, are losing something.
Caveat: it was marked down from £6.48. But still…