Marlborough should take a Champagne approach to blending

Sauvignon Blanc producers in Marlborough should ditch the idea of highlighting individual terroirs and instead take a “Champagne approach to blending”, according to American wine critic Matt Kramer.

UK chat show host Graham Norton takes part in a blending session for his popular New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc brand

Speaking at the second International Sauvignon Blanc Celebration in Marlborough last week, Kramer took the controversial standpoint that a terroir driven approach may not be the best way forward to the New Zealand region.

“The Burgundians have been blending Pinot Noir for 500 years but we’ve all accepted the culture as the truth that it’s best to show off site specifics. We live in a world where the Burgundian vision of greatness and quality is the Holy Grail, but we need to understand what makes Sauvignon Blanc unique, desirable and essential.

Matt Kramer believes the future for Marlborough Sauvignon lies in blending from different sites

“You always hear about the importance of terroir, not about blending. We’ve been saturated with the Burgundian vision of terroir, but is it the right one for New Zealand, or should you be taking a Champagne approach of blending?” Kramer questioned during his speech.

He went on to state that “the best Champagnes in the world” are made from a blend of grapes from different vineyards.

“Some vineyards are complete in themselves, and there are some great single vineyard Champagnes and grower Champagnes, but they’re idiosyncratic. The most complete Champagnes are often made from blends, which is something to consider.

“If you identify what each of your vineyards give you the answer may lie in the blend rather than the Burgundian model, which is the church I worship in. We’re all immersed in this Burgundian vision of beauty, but it may not be the answer for elevating Sauvignon Blanc to its highest and best expressions.

“No wine can command a premium without validation. You need to find a rap star who loves Sauvignon Blanc – get Beyoncé over to Marlborough. The validators have changed. Critics are on their way out – I’m just a old dinosaur,” he said.

At the inaugural Sauvignon Blanc celebration in 2016, Kramer said that Marlborough Sauvignon producers were suffering from a “midlife crisis”.

5 Responses to “Marlborough should take a Champagne approach to blending”

  1. Charles Crawfurd says:

    More poor advice from Mr Kramer. Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is a single varietal just in the same way Montrachet is a single varietal. The comparison with Champagne is absurd! Most Champagnes are blended to get the characteristics of all 3 grape varieties and to iron out the inconsistencies of vintages, neither of which apply in South Island New Zealand.

    People buy certain brands of Marlborough SB because they have a style they like and have confidence in. Some of the top wines are single vineyards wines too.

    As for getting Beyonce or any other celebrity to endorse Marlborough SB is going to achieve very little of lasting value and in fact may send all the wrong messages. Just ask Roederer about some famous people’s antics with Cristal if you believe otherwise.

  2. johnny chan says:

    Beauty is in the eyes of the beholders.

  3. paul white says:

    Once again Kramer shows his profound ignorance of NZ and Marlborough. 80% of NZ’s exports are SB and 80% is from Marlborough or thereabouts if I recall correctly. The vast majority of Marlborough SB is a blend of several subregions within Marlborough and has been for decades. And most probably a fair whack of many bottles of Marlborough SB contain SB from other regions with the 15% undisclosed content. What would improve NZ Method Champagne sparking wine, which is one of its greatest under known quality wines, is for more of that style to draw on the wide variety of top vineyards from various subregions plus addition of reserve portions from older vintages.

    • Woody says:

      I don’t think Kramer is claiming that some or most NZ SB isn’t already blends. He’s saying it will be best for NZ wineries to continue experimenting with blending to get a consistent taste profile as opposed to going for “site terroir”. Perhaps blending in a little Semillon as they do in Bordeaux will help round out some cuvée. Why not let consumers choose between sharp, racy, herbaceous NZSB and a rounder, fuller style ? You only broaden your appeal. We’re not talking Yellow Tail here but well made SB blends as some are now producing.

      I think terroir is oversold / overhyped and in many cases only a way to raise price and derive cachet. Most people have a hard time discerning NZSB from Aussie if the truth be known and discerning “lower slope” from “middle” slope is impossible for most. Other factors in the making of the wine such as hang time, fermentation temperature, grape clone, oak / no oak, yeast type etc. easily obliterate terroir, particularly if asuch a high yield grape as SB doesn’t see strict green harvesting.

    • Woody H says:

      I don’t think Kramer is claiming that some or most NZ SB isn’t already blends. He’s saying it will be best for NZ wineries to continue experimenting with blending to get a consistent taste profile as opposed to going for “site terroir”. Perhaps blending in a little Semillon as they do in Bordeaux will help round out some cuvée. Why not let consumers choose between sharp, racy, herbaceous NZSB and a rounder, fuller style ? You only broaden your appeal. We’re not talking Yellow Tail here but well made SB blends as some are now producing.

      I think terroir is oversold / overhyped and in many cases only a way to raise price and derive cachet. Most people have a hard time discerning NZSB from Aussie if the truth be known and discerning “lower slope” from “middle” slope is impossible for most. Other factors in the making of the wine such as hang time, fermentation temperature, grape clone, oak / no oak, yeast type etc. easily obliterate terroir, particularly if asuch a high yield grape as SB doesn’t see strict green harvesting.

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