A Savvy B journey through Marlborough

Michael Ellis
By Michael Ellis
about 2 years ago
3 min read

There is no wine more divisive than sauvignon blanc amongst the team here at Vinomofo. We love to hate it at Mofo HQ, and our CEOs proudly wear t-shirts with ‘Death Before Sauvignon Blanc’ printed on them. 

In a brave act of defiance, however, there are a few of us here who are willing to admit that we’re quite partial to a glass every now and then. Yes, it’s true that there’s a lot of very average wine sloshing around out there, but on a recent trip to Marlborough, we discovered three exciting whites that’ll tempt even the most stubborn savvy hater.

Spy Valley Envoy Johnson Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc

Visiting Spy Valley was one of the most terrifying, exhilarating experiences I’ve ever had at a winery, due largely to the driving skills of our host, Peter Rawling. Though I’ve never clocked 80km/h driving between rows of savvy with millimeters of clearance either side, apparently Peter does so often, and he navigated the narrow rows like a boss before skidding to a dusty halt next to the Johnson Vineyard. 

It was here we tasted the 2015 Envoy Sauvignon Blanc. It may have been the adrenaline coursing through my veins, but of the dozen Spy Valley wines we tasted at various vineyards throughout the Wairau Valley, this was exceptional. Hand-picked from the vineyard we were standing in, it’s a rich style with a creamy mouthful of ripe stone fruit, some nutty complexity and a soft texture. This was fermented in oak and left on lees for the next 11 months to add layers to that texture.

Grove Mill Sauvignon Blanc 2016

We visited Grove Mill on the morning of our last day in Marlborough and the idea of tasting yet more savvy b for breakfast was not the most appealing prospect. Then again, the sun was shining, the setting spectacular and when in Marlborough...

This 2016 sauvignon blanc was a beautiful surprise. Sure, it features all the citrus and gooseberry you’d expect, but the finish provided so much more complexity than other wines of a similar price point from the region. Time spent on lees translates to a subtle nutty character which adds another layer of depth to this wine. This is one worth seeking out and savouring. You could chill it and swig it in an instant, but you’d miss just how well constructed this wine is so be sure to take your time. 

Hans Herzog 

The Hans Herzog story is one of dedication, commitment and unwavering belief. What he’s created here Marlborough is both unique and brilliant. In 1996, at a time when most producers went all-in on savvy, Hans planted a smorgasbord of varietals on his relatively small vineyard on the banks of the Wairau River. 

He planted 29 different varieties to be precise, including anomalies not seen elsewhere in the region such as arneis, nebbiolo, montepulciano, saperavi and zweigelt. It’s a patchwork of varieties, with some only taking up a few rows, and Hans personally tends to them with meticulous attention to detail. The sauvignon blanc is unlike any other from Marlborough, with rich intensity balanced by the most pristine, bright, exotic fruit characters such as feijoa and honeydew melon.

It’s too easy to write off Marlborough sauvignon blanc as a generic style. And yes, while there are big producers pumping out millions of cases of the stuff, there are also great examples of this much-maligned variety that will challenge preconceptions and surprise even the most hardened cynics.