I popped into a wines of New Zealand tasting at the Vancouver Club a few days ago and many of the wines hit the spot now that we’re into bright, sunny days.
I continue to be charmed by Erica and Kim Crawford’s Loveblock wines. The family project that started after the duo sold their iconic Kim Crawford brand to Vincor International more than a decade ago is focused on pure expression of New Zealand terroir.
Sauvignon Blanc is a flagship wine of theirs, of course. It’s a variety I struggle with from time to time, no matter where on the planet it is grown. When they’re citrusy, fresh, and clean, with lofty acidity and minerality, what’s when I’m in my happy place. They don’t have to go too far in other directions, mind you, for me to take a pass. When they’re ultraripe or heavily oaked, I just can’t get with the sweetness that usually results.
And then there are the pyrazines.
Pyrazines are those compounds found in certain wine grapes—particularly Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Sauvignon Blanc—that express a particular vegetal note both in aromatics and on the palate. They can be herbal as well, but one of the more common descriptors is green bell pepper. Not even nicely grilled or sautéed green bell pepper that may offer a touch of a zippy sweet and savoury note to your pizza. I’m talking fresh, raw green peppers that are bitter and astringent, often overwhelming any other flavours that may be riding sidesaddle.
My tolerance for these notes in wine is low, even if they’re not too intense. This can likely be attributed to the fact that I’m not a fan of green bell peppers to begin with, so it makes sense I don’t want ’em showing up in my wine.
There are numerous examples of Sauvignon Blanc out there that don’t exhibit these characteristics in any off-putting way, and Loveblock Sauvignon Blanc 2017 (Marlborough, New Zealand; $26.99, B.C. Liquor Stores) is one of them. Huzzah!
Let’s start with the fruit, which is grown organically in the Marlborough region’s Awatere and Waihopai valleys in alluvial loam, silt, and stone. Yields are pretty low, about three tonnes per acre, harvested in small lots when each of them was at optimal ripeness, with the soil type of each lot being a key factor. There was oak-barrel fermentation, but they were neutral barrels, so their input is more adding structure to the final wines rather than drenching them in gobs of coconut, vanilla, or spice.
After malolactic fermentation—the conversion of malic acid to lactic acid to ease up any severe acidity—the lots that showed best were the ones that went into the final blend.
That final blend, the one that’s in bottles all around Vancouver, jumps out of the glass with jasmine, elderflower, a burst of lime, and fresh-picked, sun-warmed peaches. The first sip of the wine is a good bite into one of those juicy peaches, with muddled lemon, grilled pink grapefruit, and even a few Rainier cherries toward the finish. The acid is vibrant, and it carries bright and shiny minerals, resulting in a gleaming wine that is also opulent and juicy.
It is at once a wine with many complex layers that can be studied and pondered with each swirl and sip and a wine that is, frankly, pretty smashable out of a Solo cup while your barbecue smoulders with halibut or salmon on the grill.
When looking to our own backyard, a personal favourite take on the variety comes from the Similkameen Valley’s Clos du Soleil winery. Their 2016 Capella ($27.90, online) rounds out the Sauvignon Blanc Bordeaux-style, with the Sémillon grape. The region’s limestone-rich soils and epic sunny days treat the grapes well. A cavalcade of citrus fruit includes lemon, pink and yellow grapefruit, pomelo, and key limes, rounded out with honeyed apricots and a little pinch of tarragon.
The winery does well across the board, from sturdy Cabernets to meaty Syrahs and a particularly lively, apple-laden Pinot Blanc. A great opportunity to give ’em a whirl is when they do a free in-store tasting at Davie Street’s Marquis Wine Cellars on Saturday (May 19) between 5 and 7 p.m.