Single Bottle Review

Wine Review: Whitehaven “Greg” Sauvignon Blanc 2020

Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is an international success story, much aped by other wine regions to differing levels of success.  Of course the wines are not a homogenous whole, with quality and style varying from producer to producer.  So how do you find a good one?  Of course you will get good advice at your local independent merchant, but there are also some crackers outside that.  Whitehaven’s “Greg” is one of the best I’ve tasted in recent years, but first some context:

Marlborough and its Subregions

Marlborough Wine Sub-regionsMarlborough has three main subregions:

  1. Wairau Valley – mainly flat with gravelly soil, this is archetypal Sauvignon Blanc country.  Meets the ocean to the east at Cloudy Bay, so eastern vineyards have more of a maritime influence.
  2. Southern Valleys – as the plural suggests, this is a collect of several small valleys: Omaka, Fairhall, Brancott, Ben Morvan and Waihopai Valleys.  Steeper sites, especially those on clay soils, are prized for Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and other varieties.
  3. Awatere Valley – the furthest south of the three with cooler, often elevated sites that produce some Pinot Noir but especially a distinctive style of Sauvignon Blanc – easily distinguishable in a blind tasting. 

Whitehaven Wines

After hauling anchor in Marlborough Sounds while weather a storm on their yacht, Greg and Sue White decided to set down roots and plant a vineyard in Marlborough.  Whitehaven was therefore stablished in 1994 and was run by the couple until Greg’s untimely death in 2007.  From that year the “Greg” label was affixed to special releases of Sauvignon Blanc and then Pinot Noir.  

Whitehaven’s grapes come from 30 vineyards totalling 575 hectares across the three subregions.  They can be classed as three different types: estate owned, estate managed and contract growers.  The estate owned and managed vineyards are just under 40% of the total.

Since Greg’s passing Sue has been supported by a team of winemakers, viticulturalists and office staff.  Peter Jackson (no, not that one) is Chief Winemaker, Diana Katardzhieva is Senior Winemaker & Production Manager, Rowan Langdon is Winemaker and Jess Wilson is Viticulturist.  Sue and Greg’s daughter Samantha joined the firm as Process Improvement Manager with her husband Josh as Sustainability Manager.  Whitehaven therefore remains very much a family affair.

Whitehaven Wine Ranges

Whitehaven make four distinct ranges, all from Marlborough fruit.  Wines in blue and bold are available in Ireland from O’Briens.

Mansion House Bay

Named after the place where Greg proposed to Sue, these are fun, everyday drinking wines.

  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Chardonnay
  • Pinot Gris
  • Pinot Noir
  • Pinot Noir Rosé

Kōparepare

Named after the Māori for “gift” or “contribution”, these wines are made by Whitehaven in partnership with LegaSea, a “non-profit organisation that works tirelessly to protect and restore New Zealand’s coastal fisheries.”

  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Lighter Sauvignon Blanc
  • Chardonnay
  • Pinot Gris
  • Pinot Noir
  • Pinot Noir Rosé

Whitehaven

This is the senior full range of wines which are “a powerful, elegant and consistent expression of Marlborough’s classical wine styles”.

Greg

A limited edition of single vineyard releases which showcase the best that Whitehaven can make.

Whitehaven “Greg” Awatere Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2020

Whitehaven Greg Sauvignon Blanc

How special a single vineyard wine can depend on the size of the vineyard – some are mahoosive!  However, in the case of Greg Sauvignon Blanc the grapes are sourced from the Peter family’s Alton Downs Vineyard, just off the Awatere Valley Road.  The vines are all mass selection clones in East-West row orientation are were machine-harvested on the evening of 30th March 2020.  Note that harvesting by machine is preferred for Sauvignon Blanc as it tends to promote better quality.

Once picked the grapes were destemmed and pressed gently to minimise contact with the skins.  The juice was left to settle at low temperatures then cool fermented – with specially selected cultured yeasts – in stainless steel tanks.

In the glass this wine is a very pale straw yellow with green tints.  The nose is complex, with green notes of grapefruit, gooseberry and fresh (not tinned!) asparagus, along with herbs, mangetout and a mineral streak.  The aromas continue through onto the palate which is beautifully balanced, poised between fruit sweetness, tangy green notes and fresh acidity.  This wine was the absolute standout at an Aromatics virtual tasting I held with friends a few months ago and is destined to be a regular tipple chez Frankly Wines.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RS: 4.2 g/L
  • RRP: €20.45
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie
  • Source: sample*

 

*But I since bought more bottles out of my own pocket as I like it so much!

Make Mine A Double, Opinion

A Pair to Stock Up On! [Make Mine a Double #36]

Ahead of the O’Briens Wines annual wine sale (30th Aug to 23rd Sept) I’ve taken the opportunity to check in with a couple of my favourites from their range.

Astrolabe Awatere Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2016 (13.5%, €22.45 down to €16.95 at O’Briens)

Astrolabe Awatere Sauvignon Blanc

The Awatere Valley and regular Province Sauvignon Blancs from Astrolabe have been firm favourites of mine for close to a decade now.  The Province is a great all-rounder while the Awatere is more subtle, refined and food friendly.

I’m not one of those Marlborough Savvy haterz, but one of the downsides to such an aromatic and expressive wine is that it can overpower any delicate dishes it is paired with.  Awatere is the answer!  Instead of the typical tropical fruit notes we are greeted instead by light citrus, flowers and herbs.  It’s recognisably Marlborough but doesn’t have the usual overt fruitiness which is often perceived as sweetness – even if the wine is actually dry.  Treat yourself to an elegant Sauvignon!

Gaia Estate Santorini Assyrtiko Wild Ferment 2016 (13.0%, €24.95 down to €22.95 at O’Briens)

Gaia Assyrtiko Wild Ferment

This is another perennial favourite of mine from – in my not so humble opinion – the best white wine region in Greece, Santorini – which happens to be a collapsed volcanic caldera in the Aegean.  Assyrtiko is the king of grapes here, and Gaia do a straight up version called Monograph which is a great introduction to the variety (and is a total steal at the current price of €11.95).

However, the Wild Ferment is on another level entirely.  A quick sniff after opening is enough for the wine to start showing its colours – fermentation with indigenous yeast gives it a wonderfully funky and exotic nose (not dissimilar from Kevin Judd’s Greywacke Wild Sauvignon).  This continues onto the palate where it’s joined by fresh lime and lemon.  This is a wine that deserves a BIG glass for extended swirling, or even decanting for half an hour before serving.  Perfect with mushroom risotto.

 

**Click here to see more posts in the Make Mine a Double Series**