What: The best-known sauvignon blanc in the world comes from New Zealand, where soil and climate combine to create the perfect growing conditions for this grape. A case also could be made for the Loire Valley of France, but that’s a much different style of wine.
New Zealand sauvignon blanc is full of crisp acidity, bright and refreshing. It wasn’t until New Zealand popularized the grape in the 1980s, that many wine drinkers realized they were drinking it in French wines.
Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé are made from sauvignon blanc grapes, but the wines are labeled with the name of the region. Sauvignon blanc also grows in Bordeaux, where it is blended into wonderful white wines.
But it is in New Zealand wines that sauvignon blanc exhibits its fresh and wild side, and Nobilo is one of the best. In fact, Nobilo is the best-selling New Zealand white wine in the United States. (Say it Nob-eh-low.)
Once you taste this beauty, it’s easy to see why. In the glass it is a gorgeous straw color, with pleasant aromas of melon, grapefruit and pineapple. On the palate it is crisp, clean and tart, full of tropical fruit, apple and peach.
The wine has a good mouthfeel with balanced acidity, leading to a long finish that has some mineral notes. It is a terrific wine, complex and aromatic, and a fantastic bargain. It is dry, but not as bone dry as some sauvignon blancs.
Grapes selected from a wide variety of vineyards in Wairau and Awatere in Marlborough deliver a complex, harmonious flavor profile. After night harvesting to preserve fruit flavors the grapes are pressed immediately and put in stainless steel tanks with minimal skin contact for cool fermentation to occur.
Grapes from each vineyard are kept separate to allow each batch to develop it own characteristics. The various parcels are then blended into the Nobilo signature style, which remains fairly consistent from year to year.
The Marlborough vineyards are ideal for sauvignon blanc. During the day strong warm winds blow in from the mountains followed by cool nights from ocean breezes. This keeps acid levels high and contributes to the intensity of Marlborough wines.
“I’ve always been drawn to Sauvignon Blanc’s capacity to bring the palate alive,” says Nobilo winemaker David Edmonds. “I’m also convinced the tools for making wines of complexity and depth have never been greater — my mission is to unlock the possibilities still undiscovered!”
Winery: Nobilo Wines began in 1943 when Nikola Nobilo planted his first vines in New Zealand. He and his wife, Zuva, escaped their native Croatia in 1936 when war threatened to destroy their way of life.
They worked hard, saved their money and planted some of New Zealand’s first commercial vines at Huapai, west of Auckland. Nikola had more than 300 years of family winemaking tradition to draw on, so he wasn’t exactly a novice when he began.
But things were different and difficult in New Zealand, which didn’t have the wine traditions found in Europe. People didn’t drink wine with meals, and laws didn’t favor the industry.
Nikola persisted, built his equipment by hand and lobbied the government to change its liquor laws to allow wine to be served in restaurants.
Nobilo was an early champion of premium New Zealand varietals and embraced innovative approaches to the vineyards and to making wine. By the 1970s he was successful and helped lead the industry to move from hybrid grapes to sauvignon blanc and pinot noir which were more suited to the climate and soil.
He also worked on developing new vine-growing regions, most notably Marlborough, which is New Zealand’s best-known wine region.
Nobilo vineyards are scattered throughout New Zealand, including prime locations such as Marlborough, Hawkes Bay and Gisborne. The vines are planted in sunny valleys with rolling hills and ideal soil characteristics to bring out the best characteristics of the grapes.
The company also makes a regional collection pinot noir and an Icon sauvignon blanc. Other wines they produce include chardonnay, pinot grigio and merlot.
Goes With: We had this refreshing wine with a spicy shrimp dish, my version of shrimp fra diavolo, which translates as shrimp brother devil. I like a little bit of zip to the dish, but you can adjust the seasonings to suit your tastes.
The mixture of spices, tomatoes and fresh herbs brings out a great flavor in the shrimp, and the Nobilo sauvignon blanc made a nice counterpoint to the heat. This is a great wine with shrimp.
You can serve this dish over pasta or rice, but I reduced the sauce until it was thick and served it on its own, with french fries and salad as side dishes.
This refreshing, complex wine also is perfect in cold weather because it can pair with so many foods. You could serve it with salmon, pan-roasted chicken, shrimp, oysters, snapper or salads.
Here’s the shrimp recipe:
Shrimp Fra Diavolo
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon six pepper blend
1 tablespoon Morton Nature’s Seasons
1 tablespoon cajun spices
3 tablespoons olive oil
6 tablespoons butter
1 large onion sliced
1 can diced tomatoes
1 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup sherry
3 garlic cloves chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
4 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
4 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
Toss the shrimp in a medium bowl with salt, pepper blend, Nature’s Seasons and cajun spices. Heat the oil and butter in a large heavy skillet over medium high heat. Add the shrimp and saute until they start to turn pink. Remove the shrimp and set aside.
Add the onion to the skillet, adding oil or butter as needed, and saute until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and tomatoes and saute for a minute or two. Then add the wine, sherry and oregano. Cook for another 10 minutes, or until the sauce starts to thicken.
Add the shrimp back to the skillet and cook for about a minute, stirring to help the flavors mix. Stir in the basil and parsley and serve.