Astrolabe Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, 2008

Astrolabe Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, 2008

Do you know the proletarian, beer-drinking type who looks down upon wine? I have a good friend who is like this. Or, to be precise, he always pretended to be like this. Over the past few years, previously hidden signs of middle-classiness have emerged though and he even recently started to buy his own wine. A few days ago I was invited to sample his first home cooked roast and a wine he brought back from New Zealand. Now let's see which is the wine with the power to convert would-be working class beer drinkers into wine snobs.

The wine is a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, made by Astrolabe Wines - a company with a theme of voyage and discovery. 'Voyage' is actually the range of wines this Marlborough Sauvignon is from: 'The Voyage range comprises of accessible wines offering archetypal Marlborough styles through shrewd viticultural management, fruit selection and intuitive winemaking.' The Astrolabe grapes come from several vineyards in the Marlborough region and are grown on 'free-draining stony, silty loam'.

Winemaker Simon Waghorn also informs us: 'The fruit was machine harvested in cool evening conditions, destemmed and lightly pressed with minimal skin contact. Clear, cold-settled juice was fermented in stainless steel vats at low temperatures and using neutral wine yeast strains to allow the powerful fruit flavours to dominate.'

So there you have it. Not only do the grapes come from several vineyards, it also appears winemaker Simon Waghorn is not using natural yeasts! Friends of slow winemaking and terroir will turn away in disgust. It gets even worse. My friend, who has travelled the area, tells me that some of the vintners there hire helicopters to hover over the vineyards to press down warmer air and control the ripening process of the grapes better. Now we can hear several French vintners getting out their 12-gauges.

Let's see what these evil new world methods produce. First of all a somewhat pale wine with a little green. Much more important is the nose though. Within a split-second after unscrewing the cap the room is filled with fruit, fruit, fruit. And did I mention fruit?
Both palate and nose are rich in various (tropical) fruit, ranging from gooseberry to fresh green apple and maracuja/passion fruit. There was also some kiwi on the palate, which I enjoyed particularly. A very fruity wine that leaves a tingling sensation on your tongue, partly because of high acidity. Fruit and acid make it very fresh, despite the high alcohol level.

A pleasant fresh wine that should be drunk cold and young - ideally on a terrace in Marlborough, I guess, but a European garden on a summer's evening will do too.

My friend tells me he bought a bottle for a little over 10 New Zealand dollar; Astrolabe wines charge about 20 if you buy a case of ten and the New Zealand House of Wine in the UK want £12.39 per bottle.


Submitted by Jason Saturday, 12/09/2009

The use of choppers in NZ are purely to help bring down the inversion layer of air during, what would otherwise be, quite catastrophic frost events. Nothing to do with ripening....
be happy to discuss more specifics with you....