Thursday, 15 September 2016

Mahi Sauvignon Blanc, understanding Marlborough’s terroir

Brian Bicknell, winemaker and owner of Mahi Wines, was in town recently to host a Sauvignon Blanc blending class, and I was one of the lucky one to be invited.

Before the blending exercise/competition, Brian explained the topography, geography and climate of Marlborough and how they interplay. I’ve been to Marlborough a couple of times (before my wine time) and also listened to other people talking the different valleys in Marlborough before but Brian’s explanation, together with his simple drawing, was clear and easy to understand. Mahi’s website even has a video from Google Earth to illustrate their different vineyard locations. It is entertaining yet informative!

Brian brought along four pairs blending components - tank samples just finished fermentation. They were:
1. wines from grapes grown different vineyards (Ward Farm and Wadworth),
2. wines using different oak regime (new oak and old barrels),
3. wines using different yeast fermentation (wild yeast and neutral cultured yeast),
4. different pressings (free run juice and pressed juice).

We first tasted the different component and it is interesting. The Ward Farm wine has a more precise acidity while the Wayworth wine has a broader mid-palate. The new barrel wine has a more creamy mouthfeel with added complexity; the wild yeast fermentation wine has a broader palette and the pressed wine is more structured. After the tasting, Brian grouped us into five teams to come up with our ideal blend in 10 minutes. Our team first blended all components in equal proportion then adjusted accordingly. OK, we didn’t win but we like what we blended.

Prior to bledning, Brian showed us three of his Sauvignon Blancs:

Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2015: a blend from six different vineyards and included both barrel fermented wine (12%) and wild yeast wine (10%) but no pressed wine. The wine is surprisingly subtle and elegant, with ripe fruits but not pungent.

Boundary Farm Sauvignon Blanc 2013: a single vineyard wine from the warmer site Boundary Farm. The wine was barrel fermented with wild yeasts and minimal handling to express the terroir. It is complex with texture and depth.

Boundary Farm Sauvignon Blanc 2010: An older single vineyard wine from Boundary Farm with the winemaking method. Brian wanted to show us Sauvignon Blanc can age. and he was right. The wine has more savoury notes along the style of a Sancerre.

By the way, Mahi is a Maori word meaning ‘our craft, our work’. Brian believes wine is a great example of place. However, even if you have a grand cru vineyard but management is poor, it will be shown in the grapes and the subsequent wine. His philosophy is to allow the vineyards to speak through the wines. I kind of give up on Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (and I know I’m not the only one)  but Brian’s Mahi Wines changed my opinion.

Mahi Wines is available from Altaya Wines

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