- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Grove Mill, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand, 2008, $15

New Zealand rules. All classic wine grapes have European origins, and in most cases, European wines set benchmarks for vintners using those grapes elsewhere. Chardonnay and pinot noir hail from Burgundy, syrah from the Rhone Valley, sangiovese from Tuscany, cabernet and Merlot from Bordeaux. Wines from these places serve as stylistic models for both consumers and winemakers worldwide. The one exception is sauvignon blanc. With this particular grape, the global model today comes from the New World - specifically, the Marlborough region of New Zealand.

Great sauvignon blanc wines do come from Europe (particularly the eastern Loire Valley appellations of Pouilly-Fume and Sancerre in France), but the New Zealand style - piercing and crystalline, with bracing acidity and an abundance of citrus and herbal flavors - has captivated the world market. Vintners in other countries, though they’re often loath to admit it, emulate that style with their wines. Proof is in the glass.

Grove Mill’s sauvignon is one of the standard-bearers for the varietal in New Zealand. Powerful and direct, with a subtle minerality on the back of the palate, it is truly dry and deliciously expressive. Mouthwatering, so great as an aperitif, it pairs wonderfully with shellfish.

Grove Mill’s winemaker, Dave Pearce, swears that it can age well for five years or so, but I’d drink it while young, so not to lose any of its vivacious vitality. (Imported by Palm Bay.)

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