Matua Valley Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2006 Tasting Notes
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Matua Valley Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2006 Tasting Notes

This Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand's South Island is a racy wine. Pineapple, kiwi, mango, and melon hold up the tropical end (banana is conspicuously absent), with ripe lime, ripe grapefruit, peach, apricot, and a touch of green apple to represent the temperate zones. The light straw-colored wine tastes refreshingly dry, but you know there is enough residual sugar to chaperone all that fruit acidity.

The wine is forward enough to give you the notion that it is a straightforward refresher, but if you give it a chance, it shows a reflective side. From the mineral realm, it gives you stone, gravel, and tar, from the herbaceous, green bell pepper and even a little hay. White floral notes chime in at a point. To add to the mirth, you get a thin slice of unbuttered toast.

I like the finish especially (it is here that you discern the residual sweetness for the first time.) The fresh fruits merge into a single mega-fruit, then stand aside for a finale of dried apricot, dried mango, lime essence, and a final bit of stone. All this takes time.

Without taking anything away from the proud New World and New Zealand aspect of this wine, I have to complement it for its integration by stating that it has an Old World note; I mean the Loire and Sancerre of course. It does not mimic the French standard for Sauvignon Blanc, but it does pay it homage; many New World Sauvignon Blancs show no connection at all.

Sauvignon Blanc, some say, goes with everything, but this Sauvignon Blanc almost demands an audience with a fresh flaky fish, a sprinkle of lemon, a few plump capers. Some anachronistic gene in my makeup views this wine as the quintessential opener for those special guests, as I have always wanted to get ultra-formal and serve a fish course, with this wine, only to evolve into a meat course, with an entirely different wine, then essay yet another combination for dessert. Before you take out your calculator to reckon whether I can afford this, even once, let me stress that the Matua Valley can be had for as little as $10. I would think just the bottle and the screw cap would cost nearly as much (don't the ships that cross the Pacific charge something?), but wine does something odd to my math.

One caveat: chill this wine only slightly. It does not want to be ice cold. If you force it to shiver, it will not sing.


Verdict: Ambitious
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Wine is the supreme dichotomy: a prosaic agricultural product that must be marketed in a businesslike manner for anything to happen with it; an ethereal, transcendental experience that tends to negate the very reality that brings it into being.

food writer Elliot Essman James Beard Foundation Journalism Award
James Beard Award Nominee Elliot Essman

food writer Elliot Essman James Beard Foundation Journalism Award

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