Here at Fairbourne Estate we make premium, handpicked, Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.
The word Sauvignon is a derivative from the French word Sauvage meaning wild or savage and of course the word blanc is the French word for white. The wild or savage white wine grape has been named as such for a reason.
Genetically, Sauvignon Blanc shares a parental role with Cabernet Franc bringing to the world the modern king of vines, Cabernet Sauvignon. A small and powerful family of time honoured varieties each with wild and strong characters that when grown and managed well produce some of the worlds formidable, finest and memorable wines.
Sauvignon Blanc has also been described as a “Chameleon” of the vine world. Its sheer tenacity allows it’s fruit to be made as the unctuously sweet and “sticky” wines of Sauternes, the dry flinty limestone grown wines of Poulliy-Fume and the powerful tropical new world delights from Marlborough.
But it is a narrow banded Chameleon. For the Sauvignon Blanc grape to have the excitement that has brought it fame there are a few things that need to be.
- Stony, well drained soils are a start.
- The sun must be abundant and the air cooled with breezy winds.
- Dry, cool and sunny seasons make good vintages for Sauvignon Blanc.
These conditions allow for the tantalising fresh acidity that livens Sauvignon Blanc to its mouth-watering best.
The Sauvignon Blanc vine is immensely vigorous. Lower fertility stony gravels of the new world and the limestone soils of the old, harness the vigour and grow the most exciting Sauvignon Blanc. Careful vineyard selection and diligent vine management is essential to yield balanced fruit. Too much crop and the grapes will have dilute characters and fail to ripen beyond an uninteresting grassy, capsicum greenness. Too little crop and the risk increases of over ripening, results in grapes with less vibrant acidity and dulls the natural varietal character. The vine “buds” late in the season, and a well balanced crop will riper earlier than other varieties.
Sauvignon Blanc grapes are thin skinned making them prone to Botrytis cinerea or noble rot that, while attractive with other varieties and styles, detracts from the flavours of dry Sauvignon Blanc. To combat botrytis with good viticulture, some of the vines leaves are removed around the fruit zone allowing sunshine and air flow to the bunches.
Most new world Sauvignon Blanc, including Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, is machine harvested. This allows picking at optimum ripeness and with the desired flavours. Depending on a vineyard’s altitude, aspect, soil structure and crop level, the balance of ripeness and flavour can happen very quickly. The window of opportunity to harvest at the delicate balance of “optimum ripeness and flavour” is small with Sauvignon Blanc. The early harvest of a balanced yielding vineyard will produce the grapes for the best wine of the season.
Selected areas are hand harvested for our wines. The difference between hand harvested Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc and that harvested by machine is monumental. Flavour and palate texture from hand harvested Sauvignon Blanc is far more expressive and the wine has greater length. Sauvignon Blanc grapes have very “wild / savage” characters. Hand harvesting lessens juice contact with the more aggressive and phenolic characters of crushed skins, bunch stalks and petioles. Therefore, hand harvested grapes can produce a more focussed aroma spectrum and better express the nuances of the vineyard with a clear and powerful varietal expression.
The grapes for our wines are grown on north facing hillside vineyards in Marlborough’s Southern Valley’s region. The vines are cane pruned and managed as VSP. Care is taken with shoot thinning to achieve spatial uniformity to encourage even bunch development. Leaf plucking is performed to control the light and air providing an ideal environment to ripen the grapes. The hillside presents the vines for optimal sun exposure allowing full and earlier ripening.
Selected grapes are hand harvested to retain elegant and distinctive characters. The grape flavours are of ripe citrus and pineapple framed with gravelly and mineral nuances from its soils.
The grapes are fermented as site batches with selected yeast strains to reveal individual fruit expressions. The juice is fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks over a four week period, then allowed to rest on fine yeast lees for 4 months. The extended fine lees contact increases palate depth and texture to the final wine.