MOVIES & BOOZE: Wine for your weekend

Jean Smullen reviews a sauvignon blanc and an original shiraz grenache on today's show

I was lucky enough to be invited to the first ever Sauvignon 2016 - The International Sauvignon Blanc Celebration, which took place place in early February in Marlborough, New Zealand, the region that produces some of the best and most enthralling examples.

The purpose of Sauvignon 2016 was to explore the intriguing complexity of this very popular grape variety, we looked at the exciting styles that are emerging and the innovative practices in the vineyards and wineries that are influencing the wine styles.

Over the three days I sampled over 100 fascinating examples of Sauvignon Blanc from Australia, Chile, South Africa, France, USA , Austria and Italy; as well as the key wine regions in New Zealand.

2014 Lawson’s Dry Hills Sauvignon Blanc €24.28

Barbara Lawson is one of my favourite people in the New Zealand wine industry. It was lovely to meet her again in the stunning surroundings of Cloudy Bay (or the Mothership as I like to call it).

Over 60 wineries were represented and as well as the modern fresh Sauvignon styles, there was also an opportunity to taste older vintages and premium wines and to discover the modern, fresh and diverse expressions of the Sauvignon Blanc grape.

In 1973 when the first Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc vines were being planted, no one could have predicted that this variety would attain superstar status within a couple of decades.

The explosive flavours of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc has set an international benchmark for the style. Pungently aromatic with bell pepper and gooseberry flavours and lush tropical fruit flavours this time I discovered a new buzz world to describle NZ Savvy…Tomato Skin!

There is a lot of innovation going on in Marlborough at the moment, fermenting with wild yeasts, ageing Sauvignon in oak both old and new, lots of new funky styles are emerging as the winemakers develop the quality and look to see what they can do with this grape.

Sauvignon Blanc is New Zealand’s most widely planted grape variety. The Marlborough region was first planted 142 years ago, yet it is only a mere 30 years since Cloudy Bay put New Zealand on the global wine map in 1986.

By the early 1990’s Sauvignon Blanc was firmly established as New Zealand’s flagship wine with international demand increasing every year. Today it accounts for 66% of New Zealand’s total wine production and 87% of all Sauvignon produced in New Zealand is exported.

Oz Clarke who was a key speaker at the conference summed Sauvignon Blanc up succintly “this is the wine, wine snobs can’t bear”.. why? Because this is the wine that everyone seeks out for its ripe distinct flavours and aromas. The best Sauvignon Blanc does not have to be expensive or complex because this is a wine that entertains with attitude! The appeal of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is its simplicity. Another presenter, the very funny Australian Master of Wine, Jane Skilton compared grapes with dog breed. To her, Sauvignon Blanc is the Labrador of wine, the most popular and huggable of all the breeds.

The Lawson’s Dry Hills Sauvignon Blanc is enormously popular in Ireland. One of the first to appear on this market, Lawson’s wines are available mostly in restaurants but also through the independent off licences.

2012 D’Arenberg D’Arrys, Original Shiraz Grenache 2012 €18.99

Winner of Gold Star Medal for New World Wines under €20 NOFFLA 2015-2016

Widely available across independent retailers nationwide

Chester Obourne is one of the great personalities of the wine world but just never underestimate how good a winemaker he is – d’Arrys Original is a true New World icon wine. A blend of Shiraz and Grenache with complex sweet and savoury flavouts – plums, liquorice, nutmeg and a hint of cedar.

d’Arenberg is one of the most significant wineries in the McLaren Valley, an Australian wine region with its proud sense of its own identity. No winemaker epitomises that sense better than Chester Osborn, fourth generation family who took over as Chief Winemaker in D’Arenberg in 1984.

There is an Irish connection to this winery . Francis (‘Frank’) Osborn was studying medicine at Melbourne University but was advised upon ill health to, “take up life on the land”. In 1912 Frank and his father purchased two sections of land in the hills just north of the townships of Gloucester and Bellevue now known as McLaren Vale.

Frank married Helena d’Arenberg in 1920, built a house, and had three children, Antoinette, Rowen and d’Arry. Helena sadly died shortly after giving birth to d'Arry and the children who were raised by their father. In 1927, a year after Helena's death, Frank was encouraged by friends and family to consider building a winery and producing wine as a way of getting his life back on track.

Helena d’Arenberg’s family were of French origin. One of her direct ancestors ended up in Cork having won a duel against one of Napoleon’s generals. His son and Helena’s direct ancestor became provost of Trinity College and lived in Annamoe in Co Wicklow. The family eventually emigrated to Australia at the turn of the last century.

Wine Events

Lots of tastings and wine dinners in the diary at the moment details of which are all to be found in the wine diary at www.jeansmullen.com

For anyone who loves wine and gardening here is something for you! A wine and gardening tour of Puglia on May 9th. This five day inaugural Wine & Garden Tour will be lead by well known gardening journalist and horticulturist Eugene Higgins together with Daniele Napoleoni a native of Puglia. The tours is being organised by www.puglia.ie who operate out of Dublin. E: [email protected]

www.eugenehiggins.ie