2013 Te Mānia Estate Sauvignon Blanc Nelson
 
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Te Mãnia Estate Vineyards Taking Matters Into Our Own Hands

It was the largest and most prestigious New Zealand tasting of the year, sponsored by Air New Zealand. The judges' panel was headed up by Craggy Range winemaker Steve Smith and Michael Brajkovich, two of just nine Kiwi Masters of Wine. Michael Hill Smith, the first Australian MW, was also on hand. By the time the panel called it quits, the judges had evaluated almost 1,500 bottles. Just 14 Sauvignon Blancs would earn Pure Gold.

Of those 14, eleven were authored by Marlborough boutiques. Saint Clair's Pioneer Block 11 made the grade, as did the much-talked-about Maven Premier. Sacred Hill earned two spots, both Sauvignons so rare that neither was exported to the U.S. The three remaining outliers were drawn from one of the most beautiful regions in New Zealand — the shores of the Tasman Bay, where the sun shines 2,400 hours per year.

If you travel to the southern island, and make your way to the waterfront oasis of Nelson, plan to stay a while. The kayaking and open-water swimming are terrific. Summer days are delicious, rarely topping 80 degrees. At night, we slept under comforters as the mercury dipped into the mid-40s.

In the rock-strewn vineyards of Te Mānia, the Sauvignon Blanc vines are stressed much as they are in the central Loire. With vines cleansed by the maritime breezes, berry size is small, the diurnal temperature shift infusing wines with Sancerre-like richness and crispness — helping to explain why Steve Gill's Te Mānia brought Pure Gold back to Nelson.

At the tasting table, Gill gave us the blow-by-blow of the growing season that gave birth to one of the finest Sauvignon Blancs in New Zealand. "The spring was dry and warm, making for a healthy fruit set. The summer too was dry, but unusually cool, stretching out the growing season. We let the Sauvignon hang a full week longer than we have in past vintages, pushing the envelope on phenolic maturity. In the end, we got it all: natural concentration, mineral complexity and piercing acidity."

The 2013 Te Mānia Sauvignon Blanc Nelson is pale gold in color. Crisp and fragrant on the nose, with a mix of ripe citrus, gooseberry, passion fruit, an early hint of honey. Rich and juicy on the attack, packed with ripe apple, nectarine and orchard pit, braced by superb cool-climate vibrancy. Gorgeous out of the gate, but don't be afraid to lay this superb 2013 down for 5-7 years in a cool cellar.

With the U.S. dollar still struggling to keep pace with its New Zealand counterpart, many of the Pure Gold winners are opting out of the American market. Those that continue to export to the U.S. pass through national importers, further inflating prices past our threshold for pain. That's why we flew to Auckland and then to Nelson — taking matters into our own hands.



Tasting Notes

2013 Te Mānia Estate Sauvignon Blanc Nelson
"Pale gold in color. Crisp and fragrant on the nose, with a mix of ripe citrus, gooseberry, passion fruit, an early hint of honey. Rich and juicy on the attack, packed with ripe apple, nectarine and orchard pit, braced by superb cool-climate vibrancy. Gorgeous out of the gate, but don't be afraid to lay this superb 2013 down for 5-7 years in a cool cellar."
-- WineAccess Travel Log

 

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