Monday, May 4, 2009

Monkey Bay Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, 2007

Sauvignon Blanc is not a wine for aging, but sometimes a few months in the bottle can make a difference. This New Zealand Sauvignon was good when I tasted it in early December; today, it is special.

Aromas are brisk and have good lift--grapefruit, mint, basil. It's similar to the Santa Rita (below) but without the passion fruit. On the palate, there is good balance between the ripe fruit and citric acidity, and the wine has more depth and complexity than you'd expect from a Sauvignon Blanc. The finish is very long and very ripe with a unique blood orange quality. I like it.


  1. Hi Fred, I was wondering if I could get some advice on a bottle of Vacqueyras 1986 I found in the attic. Would it be advisable to drink or do you think it is now to old. Any advice would be a help, thanks.


  2. Hey Lola, thanks for the comment. Now if you truly found this wine in the attic, it really doesn't matter what the vintage date is. Wine doesn't take well to heat so the worst places to store wine are the attic or the kitchen.

    Wines, like humans, are mortal, but life spans are highly variable. Generally, the factors that will cause a wine to age and die are:

    1) Extreme heat and extreme cold or even rapid changes in temperature. From my experience, most wines that get labeled over the hill are victims of bad storage; they either taste oxidized (like bad Sherry) or very flat.

    2) Exposure to too much oxygen, either from a bad cork that lets the wine leak or ooze out or from too much air contact when the wine was being made. (Some exposure is usually desirable because it brings the wine forward and makes it taste better young, and exposure to oxygen is greater when wines are aged in new oak barriques.)

    3) Weak fruit from young vines or overcropped vineyards or vineyards that are located in areas not conducive to good wine grapes--i.e., too warm, too wet, too fertile.

    I've heard arguments that high alcohol will make a wine age prematurely, but I don't believe it. The best wines for aging have good balance of acid, fruit (sugar) and tannin.

    As for a 1986 Vacqueyras, what's in the bottle today depends a lot on the producer. If it's the 1986 Couroulu Vacqueyras that I enjoyed two decades ago, I'd be quite excited to see how it is showing today. I have only two bottles of Southern Rhone from 1986--a Domaine des Cayrons Gigondas and a Chateau Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape. I have confidence that each of these is going to be enjoyable and reasonably lively. The producers have a track record for producing ageworthy wines, and 1986, while not a very good vintage, produced wines that are tannic enough for aging. The 1986 Beaucastel, in fact, will probably go longer than the 1985 Beaucastel beside it although (because of the vintage) it will never be as enjoyable.

    Southern Rhones generally go through an evolution that includes: 1) fresh berried fruit (3-5 years), 2) emergence of peppery, herbal elements (5-7 years), 3) emergence of dried fruit traits (12-15 years), 4) fading into insipid and finally unattractive aromas and flavors. As the fresh fruit elements fade, they are replaced by secondary and tertiary characteristics that may or may not be attractive depending on the quality of the grapes and vines. And eventually everything fades. Some wines go through this entire life span in three decades; others, in three years.

    From my experience, most Vacqueyras wines from a decent vintage are at their best at about eight to ten years of age. But if it's from your cellar and it's Couroulu, who knows?

  3. The power of google is great. Here I am, watching Frasier and enjoying some asiago and tetilla with a bottle of Monkey Bay 2007.

    As a Cloudy Bay afficionado, I'm glad to report that this particular tract produces a tart, ripe, fruity experience with a long lasting, satisfying mouth feel. An enjoyable glass at a bargain basement price.

    Fred, kudos on your site, I've just discovered it, and you can count on my continued patronage.

  4. Hey, Derek. Thanks, glad you like the site.

    I like Cloudy Bay too, but the price puts it out of my reach for drinking on a regular basis. Monkey Bay is a good alternative. And I've also enjoyed Boulder Bank Sauvignon from Marlborough.

  5. I know this is an older post, but I have a bottle of Monkey Bay Sauvignon Blanc that I bought in 2008 and then put aside. Maybe for a special occasion (I didn't drink much alcohol back then), I'm not sure anymore, but it's still unopened. Honestly, I think I might have bought it because I liked the monkey on the label. I didn't have a clue about wine back then.

    I just looked at it, and it's closer to rose now than the light green I remember seeing before, and that I see on reviews online. I'm very tempted to open it, and try it out, but I'm wondering if the change in color might mean that there's something really wrong with it. I'm pretty sure I didn't store it properly, other than the fact that it was in a closed wooden box (I think that helps mitigate temperature changes?), on its side. If it's gone off, can it still be used for other things (cooking vinegar, for example?)

  6. Sorry, but Sauvignon Blanc is a not a wine meant for aging. The rose color means that age has caught up with it. It probably won't smell or taste too good, but if you like it, there is no harm in drinking it. Yes, it is probably vinegar by now, but using it for cooking will add a vinegar rather than a wine taste.

  7. Ah, vinegar it is, then, I suppose. Oh well. Thanks so much for the reply!

    1. Don't get me wrong. There is no way of knowing until you open the bottle and try it. The color is usually an indication but not always. I've had deep golden wines that were very good. But if it has turned to vinegar, it will work better in a salad dressing than beef burgundy.