Friday, 22 May 2015

A wine less ordinary - Churton, New Zealand

There are some wines that are like catnip for wine writers – we just can’t get enough of sherry or Riesling – but which never seem to float the boats of consumers. Conversely, there are wines which have enduring commercial success, but which we in the trade find it hard to get excited about. And perhaps the prime example of this is Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.

I suppose we have just tasted too many – and too many poorly made, unexciting and “attack of the clones” Kiwi Sauvignons – to get excited. Which is a shame, are there are plenty of good ones – just too much poor stuff as well.

So it was good for me to be made to taste the wines of Churton (I know, poor me, who’d have the job of a wine writer?) recently.

From the outset there are signs that Churton is not just A N Other Sauvignon Blanc. Viz, an ex-pat English owner/winemaker with a background in selling fine wine here before he crossed the world to New Zealand; ageing of the wines before release rather than bottling almost before the fermentation has finished; and use of biodynamic methods. The vines are grown on slopes above the valley floor, where the majority of vines grow on flat land that is easy to work and harvest by machine.

I think you can tell from my preamble that these wines are not going to be cheap – but I would argue that, given their quality and the care and attention that goes into them, they actually represent good value for money.

Churton Sauvignon Blanc 2013 – Hennings have the 2012 on offer for £11.85, Berry Bros for £15.95; Tanners have the 2013 for £13.60

2013 is the current vintage for Churton - and 2013 was a great vintage here. The ageing on lees gives the wine a lovely richness and texture, but it retains its acid structure and the finish goes on and on. The fruit is citrussy, with notes of elderflower and a hint of flintiness.

Also look out for Churton Best End 2013 (yes, as in best end of lamb), a single parcel Sauvignon Blanc made in this exceptional year, which has been given the barrel fermentation and ageing treatment. Churton’s Viognier is a revelation and their Pinot Noir is, as you might imagine, not too shabby either.

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