Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Monkey Bay New Zealand Chardonnay, 2007

I'm the odd man when it comes to New Zealand wines. The country is best known for its Sauvignon Blanc, and rightly so. I disagree with those who say that New Zealand is the best spot in the world for Sauvignon Blanc, however, preferring the wines of Sancerre and Pouilly Fume from the Loire Valley of France. By comparison, NZ Sauvignons are a bit heavy on the green pepper elements and a bit lacking in finesse.

New Zealand Chardonnay is another matter. For my tastes, the cool climate brings out subtle fruit and floral elements in Chardonnay that I find unique and quite appealing. This Monkey Bay Chardonnay is a good example. It offers very attractive low-key scents of white peaches, pears, honey and spring flowers. Flavors are a bit crisper and tighter than you might expect from the nose. Peaches, pears and honey are there but also a grapefruit acidity that keeps it fresh and lively. Good Chardonnay fruit character with very little oak influence. It's not as good as the Oyster Bay Chardonnay, one of my favorites at the moment. But then it only costs about half as much: $8.99 right now at Harding's Markets with a mail-in rebate for $2 to $3 a bottle. The Monkey Bay Sauvignon ($9.99) is worth the extra dollar because it's from a defined and well regarded appellation, Marlborough. I'll try the Sauvignon soon.


  1. Hi Fred. I only got to try a mouthful of the Monkey Bay Chardonnay, but enjoyed it, perhaps it is worth another look. As you note, the winery is in Marlborough County NZ, and as such I've only had the MB Sauvignon Blanc, as well as the Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc, both of which I enjoyed. The Marlborough region was recently brought to my attention in the book "First Big Crush", an interesting bit of light reading about making wine in that area, written for drinkers without all the fru fru and elitism of some wine connoisseurs. And finally this brings me to my question about drinking Sauvignon Blanc - Whenever I take the first sip of a Sauvignon Blanc I dislike the taste, it seems sour and downright unpleasant. However, once my mouth has become accustom to the taste I really enjoy the tropical fruits, crisp acidity. Have you ever heard of this happening before? Do you think it might be that my taste buds truly need to become accustom to the flavor, or perhaps could there be something with the wine, that maybe airing it would help, or that maybe upon warming the taste becomes more pleasing? take care

  2. Hi Andrew. Sauvignon Blanc definitely has a tart, almost sour quality that takes some getting used to. Some people have described it as "cat pee on gooseberry bush." That sharpness is exactly what some drinkers like the most, but it's also what turns some people off. It definitely takes some getting used to.

    There's a big variation in different SB wines, though. Just a little bit of ripeness can turn cat pee into passion fruit. (Sounds weird but there must be some chemical connection.) I love that passion fruit quality and am always looking for it in Sauvignon Blanc. One wine that has it is Boulder Bank Sauvignon Blanc (from Marlborough, I believe) that costs about $10 at Cost Plus World Market.

    I don't think aeration will make a Sauvignon Blanc taste any different. That usually softens tannins, and most white wines are not very tannic. Extra chilling tends to block flavor and aroma. A good white wine usually tastes better as it gets warmer; a cheap wine shows its true character as it warms.