Astrolabe’s winemaker Simon Waghorn is a master of his trade. Speaking to him recently, I was reminded of a chef who can make Bib gourmand bistro-style food but also Michelin-starred fine dining – though without the airs and graces.
As you move up the Astrolabe Sauvingon Blanc range the wines go from tasty all-rounders to increasingly complex; the fruit sources move from the whole region, to sub-regions, to single vineyard. For example, the Awatere Valley bottling is a real showcase of tha sub-region’s style, with leafy and herbal notes developed over a longer growing season, but some of the fruit from the Awatere also goes into the Province Sauvingon Blanc. Similarly, fruit from the Taihoa vineyard is bottled on its own – as below – but also with other Kēkerengū fruit as the Kēkerengū Coast Sauvignon Blanc.
I tried the 2017 vintage of the Taihoa a few years ago and was very impressed, so was keeen to try the current vintage: 2020.
Astrolabe Taihoa Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2020
It is not well appreciated by folks up here that the Marlborough Wine GI actually extends down the coast to include the Kaikōura District as well as the Marlborough District itself:
Plantings are much more scarce compared to the main three sub-regions and farming is often mixed
The Taihoa Vineyard is on the Kēkerengū Coast, just over the administrative border into Kaikōura District. The vineyard is owned by Paddy and Anna Trolove and consists of two small blocks on flat terraces close to the sea. The influence of the sea extends the growing season in both directions; budburst arrives early yet the cold winds from the south delay full ripening until after the rest of Marlborough.
Unlike in central Marlborough, grapes from the Taihoa vineyard are hand-picked. Fermentation is in barrel with indigenous yeasts, followed by maturation in French oak barrels. These practices impart significant body and texture to the wine, as well as additional aromas and flavours.
In the glass this 2020 vintage is lemony-gold, just a fraction darker than the more modest Sauvignons. The nose is very expressive, with lots of rich lees character coming through on top of typical Sauvignon notes of grapefruit, lemon and passionfruit. The mouthfeel is what really sets it apart, with an almost chewy texture. The lees influence is still prominent on the palate, along with tropical fruit and nutty notes
This is Astrolabe’ top Sauvignon Blanc and retails for a little over twice the price of its Regions Marlborough Sauvignon. Is it worth the money? It really depends what you’re after; it’s a weekend treat rather than a weekday sipper. At O’Briens it’s €0.50 more than Cloudy Bay, and as good as Cloudy Bay is, I find the Taihoa Vineyard much more interesting. I think I’ll treat myself!
- ABV: 13.5%
- RRP: €39.45
- Source: tasted at O’Briens Wine Festival #obwinefest
- Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie