Most people believe that Sauvignon Blanc should, in the words of a French-born English wine merchant, be “picked, pressed and pissed before Christmas”.
CEREALS, CHEESE, SAUVIGNON
Aromatic and fruit-driven with crisp, mouthwatering acidity, these wines are made to be enjoyed on release. In fact, there has been an attitude that if you’re selling a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc two years after the vintage, there’s either something wrong with the wine or the sales team.
Nowhere is this felt more than in the country where Sauvignon Blanc reigns supreme, namely New Zealand. In 2017, New Zealand produced 285 million litres of wine, about three-quarters of which was dedicated to Sauvignon Blanc. Here, Sauvignon Blanc is sold in supermarkets alongside cereals and cheese and has probably become the wine world’s only fast moving consumer good.
COMING OF AGE
Perhaps this reputation explains why there is a growing number of wine producers advocating for a newfound respect for aged Sauvignon Blancs. A nod towards the slow movement of sorts. Now, it’s worthwhile to mention that not all Sauvignon Blancs CAN age. Entry-level Sauvignon Blanc aged anywhere between 6 months to two years are meant to be enjoyed for their vibrant fruit and zestiness. In contrast, wild yeast and barrel-fermented examples, while ready for drinking upon release, can generally continue aging for up to 5 years. Other factors to consider when assessing a wine’s ability to age well are intensity, good acidity, some barrel/lees influence and a history of cellaring well. But for those Sauvignon Blancs that CAN, international vintners are aging them in the same way you might a Chardonnay or Riesling. These age-worthy blancs are a big departure from the bulk bottle majority on shelves and are giving the popular grape an opportunity to finally come of age.
RICHER, MELLOWER, MORE COMPLEX
Many argue that when made well, a 5 – 7-year-old Sauvignon Blanc tends to be richer, mellower and more complex than the younger versions, with less lifted aromatics and toned-down acidity. Intriguingly, unlike other aged whites, Sauvignon Blanc maintains its pale colour throughout aging. With some 1985 Pouilly Fumé still drinking well, aged Sauvignon Blancs have been described to develop dried herb and slightly honeysuckle character with a softer, rounded palate.
Of course, if you prefer the youthful freshness and tangy acidity of a young Sauvignon Blanc, then you may well be disappointed here.
Yet, the real trick is to not expect the wine to be a younger version of itself, and instead, to appreciate it for what it offers today.
ENTER THE BARON
While an aged Sauvignon Blanc may not have been Baron Benjamin de Rothschild’s initial goal, there’s no doubt his winery also faces the challenge of crafting a Sauvignon Blanc that lends itself to time in bottle.
Synonymous with Swiss banking and a real-time family dynasty, the Rothschilds, being of French heritage, naturally have a strong love for wine. So really, it should come as no surprise that when the Baron set out to make his own Sauvignon Blanc, he set out to make one of the best Sauvignon Blancs possible.
His taste for adventure led him to explore a new part of the world, namely Marlborough, New Zealand. Marlborough, located in the north-eastern corner of South Island, accounts for 62% of all of New Zealand’s grape-growing land. The fertile region enjoys a mostly maritime, cool climate, which is why it is the capital of wine production in New Zealand. And so it was here that Rimapere Wines found its roots in 2012.
FIVE ARROWS IN MARLBOROUGH
Today, the Rimapere vineyard comprises 24 hectares of vines that are ideally situated on the prestigious Rapaura site, where the alluvial soil is mainly made of pebbles and gravel. Meaning ‘five arrows’ in the Maori language, the wines come from a single vineyard named Rimapere, paying a dual tribute to the Rothschild family’s emblem and the traditional local culture.
When the Compagnie Vinicole first acquired the vineyard, Benjamin de Rothschild decided to work with New Zealand’s Peabody family, which already owned a top-notch winery, Craggy Range. Drawing heavily on the Peabody’s local know-how and facilities, the Rothschild and Peabody’s worked together to create a classic example of a cool climate Sauvignon Blanc. Think lime, nettle and jasmine flavours, together with a crisp acidity. Thanks to the skin contact during winemaking and aging in bottle, the Rimapere 2016 vintage has had a moment to grow out of nappies and really brings something noteworthy to the fore.
Taste for yourself.
After all, this wine is fit for a baron.