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Tag Archives: New Zealand wine

Wine of the week: Kono Sauvignon Blanc 2012

wineofweek

Kono NEW BottleNew Zealand sauvignon blanc, a hot commodity in the 1990s, is mostly just another part of the wine landscape these days. Those of us who drink it know what to expect — citrus flavors, including grapefruit and sometimes a lot of it, a good price, and not much else. This doesn’t make it bad wine; just predictable, with the advantages and disadvantages that goes with that.

Which is why I was so surprised by the Kono ($11, sample, 13%) at a tasting for double-gold medal winners from the San Francisco International Wine Competitton. It was more than that, and at a price where many of the wines are one-note grapefruit efforts. Look for some citrus, of course, but also tropical fruit in the middle (mango?), and even a bit of green herb, believe it or not. It’s rounded, surprisingly complex, and a terrific value at this price.

Two other things worth nothing: First, the company that makes the wine is owned by Maoris, the indigenous people of New Zealand and who mostly aren’t in the wine business. Second, the company is very proud of its Wine Spectator score, 89 points for the 2011 vintage. This is another example of the fallacy of scores — how could the wine get a double gold and be worth less than 90 points?

Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2014 $10 Hall of Fame (coming in a month) if I can find it somehere for $10.

Wine review: Spy Valley Riesling 2011

One of the themes on the blog for the past couple of weeks has been value — does a wine offer more to the consumer than it costs? In this, value is not about price, because not all cheap wine delivers value. Sometimes, it’s just cheap.

It’s also worth noting that a wine doesn’t have to be cheap to offer value. Yes, it’s more difficult for an expensive wine to do this, given that too many expensive wines are expensive because their reason for being is to be expensive. But it is certainly possible, and it happens more often than I acknowledge here.

One producer who consistently does this is New Zealand’s Spy Valley, which as been making $15 and $20 wines that taste like they cost much more for as long as I have been writing about wine. I had one of those sublime, geeky wine experiences with the sauvignon blanc last year, and it’s not even my favorite Spy Valley wine.

That would be the riesling ($18, purchased, 12.5%), which is as enjoyable as it is difficult to find. I only see it in Dallas every couple of years, given the vagaries of the three-tier system, so when I do see it, I buy it, even if it’s a previous vintage. The producer is good enough so that doesn’t matter.

The 2011 didn’t let me down. It’s not riesling like most consumers know it — no sweet tea-like sugar or fruit flavors that taste like they came out of a can. Instead, it’s a dry riesling, complex with layers of flavor that range from petrol on the nose (a classic riesling characteristic) to citrus and tropical in the front and middle. It’s still fresh and almost aggressive after almost two years in bottle, which is a sign that it’s only going to get better with age.

Serve this to someone who doesn’t think they like riesling, and see if they change their mind. Highly recommended, and well worth the money.

Wine of the week: Thorny Rose Sauvignon Blanc 2011

ss_tr_img_bottle-sauvblancNew Zealand sauvignon blancs were all the rage in the couple of years before I started the blog. One of them, Cloudy Bay, even got big scores from the Winestream Media, something that almost never happens to sauvignon blancs.

Since then, they’ve mostly faded into the store shelf and have become just another wine to buy. I’m not quite sure why; the fickle consumer, perhaps, who moved on to something else?

So I was surprised to see the Thorny Rose ($9, purchased, 13.5%), apparently a new label from Big Wine’s Constellation Brands. Who is doing new sauvignon blancs these days?

Be glad they’re doing this one. I expected another tepid grocery store New Zealand sauvignon blanc, with lots of sort of grapefruity fruit and not much else. Instead, I tasted lots of real grapefruit, as well as a tiny bit of tropical fruit in the middle and even an attempt at a finish. This is not a one-flavor wine by any means. (Though, if you click on the link to the wine, be warned: The copy reads as if it was written by someone my age trying to appeal to someone in their 20s.)

Serve it chilled with roast or grilled chicken or boiled or grilled seafood, and don’t forget how much sauvignon blanc likes garlic and parsley.

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