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Copyright © 2015
Forkmedia LLC

by Fred McMillin
for March 14, 2000


Birth of a Blanc


Auckland, New Zealand, Feb. 19, 1974 International Wine and Food Society Dinner:

The lamb casserole with minted potatoes was delicious. My wife quickly acquired the recipe. It was accompied by a muscat-based wine named LEXIA, produced by Montana Wines. The dynamic firm was founded in 1944 by Dalmatian-born Ivan Yukich. His sons, Frank and Mate, now ran the show. We were told they had just taken a big risk. They had made a major investment in the untested Marlborough region, located on the northeastern tip of the South Island. Farther south than any successful Southern Hemisphere vineyards, it looked far too cool. So what was the outcome? (Note: At the time there were but 60 acres of Sauvignon Blanc in Australia, none in New Zealand.)

The Rest of the Story

Let's listen to America's foremost wine critic, Robert Parker, Jr., in his Buyer' Guide, 5th Edition, 1999.

Sauvignon Blanc elicits the most excitement of all New Zealand wines. They can be surprisingly rich, the best possessing a stunning midpalate and length. All you have to do is taste...a Montana Sauvignon Blanc to see that special wines can emerge from this varietal.

My panel just tasted one, a Montana Marlborough Blanc, our...

Wine of the Day

Brancott Estate Name—Montana Wines "B" Brancott Estate Sauvignon Blanc, 1998
Appellation—Marlborough Region. June to August rainfall is something like 30". Hard on the grapes? Nope. The vines are dormant because that's winter time down south.
Acidity—Higher than many California Blancs at 7.2 grams per liter (Cal. usually in the 6s.)
Comments by my Presidio Cafe Panel: David Jones—"Grapefruit rind. Bracing acidity. Typical New Zealand." Edgar Vogt— "Lovely lime and grapefruit. Crisp acidity."
Rating—The panel gave it the Best White of the Night, and a rating rare for a Blanc: EXCELLENT.
Contact— Office of Angela Freire, (707) 255-7667, FAX (707) 255-1119
Price—$26 range

Postscript—You've Come a Long Way, Baby

At the time of our 1974 visit, the most widely-planted white wine grape was Baco 22A, a hybrid of the French Folle Blanche and the native American Noah. It was created in 1898 by French nurseryman Francois Baco to fight phylloxera. The most widely-planted red wine grape was another titan of the vineyard, the native American grape Albany Suprise!

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.


This page created March 2000