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228 V O L . 7 5 P A R T 2 M A R C H 2 0 1 7 THE ADVOCATE tion, being thin, grassy and sweet. He also thought the name was hard for Americans to pronounce. Though he knew his wine would be delicious, Mondavi also wanted to sell it, which meant rebranding it. Taking a cue from Pouilly-Fumé, he labelled his wine Fumé Blanc. The name caught, as did the wine, which to this day is one of the winery’s flagships. The profile of Fumé Blanc, from Mondavi’s version to others that have followed in its footsteps, typically displays rounder, richer, more melon-like flavors from the use of oak and, at times, a bit of malolactic fermentation. A decade later, pioneering New Zealand producer Montana began developing its first vineyard, now known as Brancott Estate, in Marlborough. The land was cleared and levelled, and the first of thousands of vines was planted on August 11, 1973. At the ceremony, founder Frank Yukich made the statement, “Wines from here will become world famous.”3 At the time no one took him seriously, but by the 1980s, wineries in New Zealand, especially in Marlborough, began producing Sauv Blanc that critics felt was outstanding, even unforgettable. As one writer in the 1990s put it: More than any other region outside France, it is New Zealand that has done wonders for the worldwide status of Sauvignon. It may very well be that, across the board, New Zealand’s winemakers now have a better understanding of the grape than the French. … Mouthful for mouthful, New Zealand Sauvignons offer more ecstatically happy fruit flavours than practically any other dry white wines in the world.4 Noted wine writer George M. Taber wrote that one wine critic said that “drinking one’s first New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc was like having sex for the first time”.5 Yet not all agree that this is a good thing. As of 2013, NZ Sauv Blanc had apparently become the top-selling white wine in Australia. In an amusing recent column entitled “Savalanche!” (referring to this overwhelming influx of Kiwi wine) the writer asked two renowned Aussie winemakers about the phenomenon and the critic’s wine–sex quote. They responded this way: “Tyrrell and Agnew give this some thought. It seems to take them back a few years. Tyrrell finally agrees: ‘Yes, first sex: smelt a bit funny—and a short finish.’ Agnew concurs: ‘It left you distinctly unsatisfied.’ ”6 This disparaging view is due to what has generally become a uniformity in the aroma and flavour profile of New Zealand versions: their proverbial huge sweaty acidity, lime, gooseberry and cat urine. No wonder one wine sold in B.C. for a few years was named “Cat’s Pee on a Gooseberry Bush”. One-dimensional, with intensity over subtlety, is how critics perceive it. While that profile was innovative a couple of decades ago, many aficiona-


March Pages 2017
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