Marlborough Sauvignon in ‘mid-life crisis’

Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is going through a “mid-life crisis”, US wine writer Matt Kramer has said.

The first ever International Sauvignon Blanc celebration takes place in Marlborough, New Zealand from February 1-3 (Photo: Flickr)

The first ever International Sauvignon Blanc celebration is taking place in Marlborough, New Zealand until 3 February (Photo: Flickr)

Addressing attendees of the first ever international Sauvignon Blanc Celebration in Marlborough, Kramer said this morning that the New Zealand region was facing a transitional stage, charting a shift from an initial 40 year-period based on “luck” to a new stage requiring “talent”.

“There’s some sense of a mid-life crisis here in Marlborough… a sense that somehow you’ve missed something,” he began.

Then he said that he would offer a “counselling session” before telling Marlborough producers to “get over it – you are one of the world’s most successful wine regions, you have created a wine style that is recognised everywhere, and something that no-one else has, so what the hell do you want? Mermaids?”

Continuing he said, “You can claim success, claim uniqueness, claim profitability… but you are going through a mid-life crisis because you are in phase 1 and you are about to enter phase 2.”

The first stage he described as LBT or Luck Beats Talent, while the second he termed TBL: Talent Beats Luck.

“The first 40 years of the meteoric success of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc has been LBT: Luck Beats Talent, because back in 1980 you didn’t know what you were doing… how could you have know that this incredible success story would happen.”

“Now you’re [almost] 45 years old, the luck has ran out pal, and now you’re going into phase 2, you lived long enough, and reached a point in your lives where you know the second truth, phase 2, TBL, Talent Beats Luck.”

Or rather, Kramer said that Marlborough was now “applying talent to luck”.

To do this he observed that the region was “going from the general to the particular”, and “creating site specific wines that identify a particular flavour.”

He also said there was a need to “lower yields”, and to “start looking at the land through the lens of the soil, rather than the climate”.

Concluding he said, “You’ve had your luck, you’ve got your talent… the rest is continued success, enjoy it.”

The first Sauvignon Blanc vines were planted in Marlborough in 1973 at Montana, now called Brancott Estate.

One Response to “Marlborough Sauvignon in ‘mid-life crisis’”

  1. Allan Scott was the person who planted that first Sauvignon Blanc vine (in Montana’s Stoneleigh vineyard) and, of course, he established his own high quality eponymous vineyard and winery in 1990, Allan Scott Wines. Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc has driven the New Zealand brand to a level of international success that no one imagined back in the day and as long as they do not throw out the baby with the bathwater, they should continue laughing all the way to the bank. The mid-life crisis that Matt speaks of has been festering away for the last 10-15 years because, essentially, the Kiwis are embarrassed. They are not embarrassed so much by their success as by the grape responsible for that success. They think it’s too obvious and they would much rather be famous for producing something far more serious and complex than Sauvignon Blanc, much of which is consumed by ditzy air-heads as they gossip over lunch. In fact they already are, if not famous, then duly recognised and respected by knowledgeable consumers (the ones they are so worried about) for much more than Sauvignon Blanc. And I do not just mean Pinot Noir. New Zealand is a country that offers so much potential for so many different grape varieties. I have said this before: if I had to choose just one country from either the Old World or the New to provide me with every style I like to drink, then that country would be New Zealand, but all those grapes and styles are just the first class carriages. By all means strive to produce great wines and certainly play around with Sauvignon Blanc, whether it is by creating site specific wines that Matt speaks of or the introduction of oak that Richard Bampfield has suggested (both of which have been going on for decades anyway), but never forget that it is the obvious, so obvious it hits you in the face, Sauvignon Blanc that drives the train that pulls along all those first class carriages. As long as the majority of Sauvignon Blanc is of that ilk, it will continue to be the cash cow that funds more ambitious projects.

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