Wine tastings are one of the many fun things to do in the Cayman Islands. However, most wine tastings follow a fairly predictable routine: Guests taste a number of wines while a presenter talks about them. Often the wines are served with some nibbles like crackers, cheese or charcuterie. The wines tasted are usually available to buy the day of the tasting.
The West Indies Wine Company and Nobilo Wines decided to go off script and do something different for an interactive tasting in April. One big difference was this: Guests got to taste only one wine that Nobilo sells, its “Regional Collection” Sauvignon Blanc. The other wines tasted were Sauvignon Blancs from various parts of Marlborough, New Zealand, that Nobilo produces to make up its Regional Collection blend.
But the differences didn’t end there. Guests were encouraged to blend their own wine to suit their tastes using the six wines that go into the Regional Collection blend. In addition, Abacus restaurant chef Will O’Hara served healthy portions of three different kinds of fish ceviche, a dish known to pair well with Sauvignon Blanc.
Michelle McGovern, a wine portfolio manager for Stansfeld Scott, said the attendees would likely be surprised by the wines they tasted.
“A lot of people think of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc as one style,” she said. “But as you’ll see, that’s not the case.”
Guests were encouraged to blend their own wine to suit their tastes using the six wines that go into the Regional Collection blend.
REGIONS AND FLAVOURS
Before starting the tasting, McGovern talked about the history of Nobilo Wines.
Nikola Nobilo immigrated to New Zealand from Croatia in the late 1930s, before the onset of the Second World War. His family had worked in Croatia’s winemaking industry for three centuries and Nobilo quickly determined that New Zealand had the right climate to grow high-quality wine grapes. He started planting grapes in 1943 and became one of New Zealand’s winemaking pioneers. He led the effort to move New Zealand away from hybrid wine grapes to Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir and he helped develop Marlborough into the most successful wine region in New Zealand.
“Eighty per cent of the wine from New Zealand comes from Marlborough,” McGovern said.
Marlborough, as a region, is very large, encompassing more than 4,800 square miles. From a wine grape-growing perspective, it is made up of many different smaller subregions. Nobilo sources grapes from six of those subregions, including Central Wairau/Rapaura, Rarangi, Lower Wairau, Southern Valleys, Awatere Valley and Blind River.
“Grapes from each of the subregions create different fruit profiles,” McGovern said, noting that the Lower Wairau is a bit warmer than the other regions so it produces wines with more tropical fruit flavours like passion fruit and pineapple. The Awatere Valley, which has higher elevation, produces grapes that give wine more minerality, higher acidity and herbal flavours like tomato leaf, she said.
“The Central Wairau is known as the ‘Goldilocks Zone’ because its grapes create wines with just the right balance and the flavours people associate with New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc,” McGovern said.
Guests were asked to first taste the wines from the six different subregions to see the differences in flavours. Then McGovern asked them to blend a seventh wine using small plastic squirt vials to take from each of the six subregional wines. The goal wasn’t to necessarily create a wine exactly like Nobilo’s Regional Collection Sauvignon Blanc — which was also served as a benchmark — but to create a wine blend that appealed to guests’ personal tastes.
In the end, guests tasted eight different Sauvignon Blancs, including the one they blended themselves. All eight would have been significantly different, unless someone were to have miraculously duplicated Nobilo’s award-winning Regional Collection blend. When combined with the ceviche served with the wine, it all added up to a delicious, informative, fun and unique wine tasting event.