What’s really in the name of a wine?

in Wine by

By Celia Strong

Sometimes, the name of a wine is as good as the wine itself tastes. And as fun. Over the years, we’ve all had wines that we’ve really liked the names of. For various reasons. Some because they conveyed a message. (The French Fat Bastard wines were hugely popular as birthday presents!) Some because they told a story about the wine. (Like the Santa Rita 120 wines that were named for the 120 soldiers who hid in the winery’s cellars during the Chilean revolution.) Some, like our wine today, sound interesting and help us remember them. It’s really a fun name.

Quickly, so we can get to it, our wine comes from New Zealand. Which pretty much tells us it’s probably a Sauvignon Blanc. The wine business, and grape growing and winemaking, didn’t really get started in this two island country until the 1970’s. They quickly became known for quality wines, though, and the industry exploded in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Most of their wines being distinctive Sauvignon Blancs and most of them coming from the Marlborough region, located on the northeastern tip of the southern island. Over the years, other grape varieties and other areas of New Zealand have been developed. It’s just that Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc rules. In 2014, Sauvignon Blanc was 72% of the wine made in New Zealand, and 86% of the wine they exported.

Many wine drinkers are not as fond of Sauvignon Blanc for their white wines. Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio continue to be more favored. However, wine drinkers who like Sauvignon Blanc really like it. And the success of New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs has convinced many that these are indeed good wines. Having said that, we have to look at what a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc tastes like. Because they are distinctly different from Loire Valley, France, Sauvignon Blanc wines, and from Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc wines and from Chilean Sauvignon Blanc wines. All three of the latter being recognized as good sources for this grape’s wines as well.

New Zealand, and Marlborough in particular, is known for its forceful, fruity style of wine. These wines have bold flavors, pungent and herbaceous with tropical fruit flavors. In addition, they have lime, apple, Asian pear, kiwi, passionfruit, white peach, nectarine, and, best known, grapefruit flavors. Then, to add to these layers, there are green bell pepper notes, gooseberries, herbs (basil, dill, tarragon, lemongrass, coriander) and grass. These wines have medium to medium-high acidity, so they are dry. In fact, some wine writers have used the term “zing” to describe the crisp acidity in New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs.

Our wine this week is Infamous Goose Sauvignon Blanc. Interesting name, for sure. Well, it is named for the “Moa.” A giant, flightless bird, goose that roamed the South Island of New Zealand. Way before humans were even there. The largest of these geese were 12 feet tall and weighed over 500 pounds. Rumor has it that the Moa is extinct. Partly because they were hunted by giant eagles with 12 foot wing spans. But, there are always stories about sightings. No moa? Yes moa! Fill my glass with moa! (Wow, that’s a name game, isn’t it?)

Our wine is 100% Sauvignon Blanc. These grapes are grown in the sunny, dry Marlborough region. It has a cool climate, with a longer, slower growing season which helps intensify the flavors in the grapes. And keep the acidity in them crisp and green and herbaceous. The soil is stony, sandy loam with layers of free-draining shingle. The end result is wines that are aromatic, lush and fruity. Our wine is pale straw color with hints of green at its edges. It swells with flavors and aromas that include gooseberries, green tea, granny smith apples, lemon and lime rinds, nectarines and green peppers. And it pairs, perfectly, with tomato sauces, herb and butter sauces, goat cheeses, vegetables dishes and green salads, and shellfish and seafood. Lots of good foods in there for everyone. I guess it’s up to us to figure out if the moa is extinct or not. For sure, when we’ve tasted this wine, we’ll be having lots of sightings. For $11.99. Enjoy.