The Diversity of Sauvignon Blanc

Historically I have not been one of Sauvignon Blanc’s biggest fans, finding it rather wearing after a glass or two. Sauvignon’s big draw is its hugely aromatic scent, but it is exactly this rather brash trait that leaves me a little underwhelmed. Too often behind all the perfume is a hollow and sometimes hard wine; a one trick pony.

Yet like so many grape varieties, Sauvignon does possess what it takes to be great. Anyone who has ever tasted Domaine de Chevalier’s white from Pessac Leognan knows how intense, complex and elegant this variety can be. Two regions of the world where the styles are often the antithesis of each other are, Marlborough in New Zealand and Sonoma County, California. Marlborough is synonymous with the most effusive examples, floral, fruity and bright. The best from California (usually labelled ‘Fumé Blanc’) are more restrained. These wines are often fermented and matured in oak giving a sweeter fruit style and, in the best examples, have added complexity from time spent on lees and from their slow exposure to air.

The two Sauvignon Blancs below would make for a great comparative tasting. The Matua is a premium example from Marlborough. It has greater depth, weight and concentration than is normal for the region, whilst retaining all the flamboyance that has made Marlborough Sauvignons famous. The ‘La Petite Etoile’ has a more restrained character with a leesy, nutty and bruised apple aroma that reminds me of Chenin Blanc from the Loire. The warmer climate of Sonoma (in comparison to the other great Sauvignon regions of the world) is partly responsible for this more muted style and the use of the Musqué clone adds extra richness and body. Whichever style you prefer, both are excellent examples and are worth seeking out.

I have included a review of the delicious Chianti Classico Riserva from the ‘La Route’ range, for those of you who prefer red. This was my wine of the afternoon and mature enough to have allowed sufficient softening of Sangiovese’s naturally rather strident tannins.

 

Matua, ‘Lands & Legends’, Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, 2013, 13.5%
Grape: Sauvignon Blanc
Wine-making: No oak, this is all about fruit purity and intensity.
Note: Ultra clean but not boring Marlborough Sauvignon, that has extra intensity and focus in comparison to many of its competitors. That extra concentration comes at a premium but is well worth comparing with the Fume Blanc below to experience the vastly different styles that Sauvignon can produce. Delicious.
Price: 1,500NT
Score: 16.5/20
Available from: La Route 02 8780 0959

 

Chateau St Jean, ‘La Petite Etoile’, Russian River, Fume Blanc, 2011, 14.5%
Grape: Sauvignon Blanc, includes a portion of the ‘Musque’ clone which adds a little extra aromatic and textural dimension.
Wine-making: Barrel fermented and two thirds matured in a mix of old and new French oak for 8 months.
Note: Engaging, complex and classy. Nutty, leesy and with bruised apple and citrus aromas that are supported by a ripe but savoury and persistent palate. Very good, a Sauvignon version of Savennieres.
Price: 1,200NT
Score: 16.5/20
Available from: La Route 02 8780 0959

 

Castello Gabbiano, Chianti Classico Riserva, 2009, 14%
Grape: 95% Sangiovese, 5% Merlot
Wine-making: Maturation in both old and new oak.
Note: A ‘proper’ Chianti that already looks old in the glass with its rich, garnett colour. Leathery, herbal and dried strawberry nose coupled with some spice and very fine powdery tannins. Mature and delicious, this is perfect drinking now and comes highly recommended.
Price: 1,300NT
Score: 17/20
Available from: La Route 02 8780 0959

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