With International Sauvignon Blanc Day kicking off the summer on May 4th, we decided to delve into the ever popular varietal. Some of you are familiar with it and are happy to explore the various styles, different regions and countries that produce fantastic Sauvignon Blanc.
Then again, quite a few of you, (like my sister) haven’t a clue that it even comes from different places. While the rest of you aren’t bothered buying into the marketing bull about International Wine Days anyway, I’ve just had a sip of Leyda Sauvignon Blanc from Chile, as I thought of what to write next.
You see, I understand how easy it is to be stuck in a wine rut – overwhelmed by all the bottles to choose from, scared of wasting good money on wine you didn’t enjoy (not that it would be poured down the sink or anything drastic like that!) I get it, I love wine but there was a time when even I believed that Sauvignon Blanc was just Sauvignon Blanc, but trust me, it is not.
Although, Sauvignon Blanc’s roots are in the Loire Valley in France, it flourishes in the cooler parts of Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and Chile. Smaller quantities are produced in USA, Italy and Spain and watch out for its increasing popularity from Eastern European countries.
The taste is different
Sauvignon Blanc has a wide range of styles and characteristics. The most popular is produced in stainless steel tanks, to preserve its fresh fruit profile. The aromatics vary considerably from green apples, lime, gooseberry, passionfruit, peach to asparagus and green peppers, depending on where it is grown and how ripe the grapes are.
On the palate, the wines are usually dry with fruit forward flavours and occasional hints of flint, minerality or herbaceous grassy notes. In general, the lighter, delicate style Sauvignons are found in the Old World and more pronounced in New World regions. Sauvignon is well known for its refreshing, mouth-watering acidity allowing it to be the perfect aperitif, tantalising the taste buds before a meal.
This style is extremely versatile when paired with food, which explains why any good restaurant will have a several Sauvignons on its wine list. The combination of Sauvignon with ripe goat’s cheese is a must try, as is in season grilled asparagus. As it has high acidity it works great with fish and lemon sauce, salads with vinaigrette and ratatouille.
If Sauvignon is fermented using ‘wild yeast’, left on its lees (dead yeast cells) or aged in oak barrels, it is transformed from a fresh lively style to one with layers of complexity. Not just riper fruit like peach, think lemon & rhubarb boiled sweets, these wines often have nutty notes and a creamy texture (this style is often blended with Semillon).
Finally, in Sauternes, Sauvignon plays an important role, blended with Semillon and Muscadelle in the making some of the most famous sweet wines in the world. And you thought it all tasted the same!
Why pay €35 when you can pick up a bottle for €10?
What happens if you loosen the purse strings? Like anything, if you buy something from your local supermarket or a farmer’s market, the quality is going to vary. Large co-ops buy grapes in bulk to produce inexpensive branded wines.
A small family run winery, who tend to their vineyards day and night, who craft their wine, in theory, should produce better quality wine. How the grapes are harvested, if the winery is certified organic are all factors that affect the price of a wine. Another significant factor is the winemaker’s reputation.
Chateau de Tracy in Pouilly Fume, is the benchmark of quality in the Loire Valley, the Chateau have been producing wine for over 600 years.‘We would get 1 to 3 cases max. We never put it on the shelf just made phone calls and it was gone”, says Finian Sweeney, of Sweeney’s in Glasnevin speaking of the hype surrounding the Iconic Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc when it first arrived in Ireland over 25 years ago.
These two wines show how reputation, limited production and quality can command a higher price tag, both are around €35.
Go on, give Sauvignon Blanc a go!
For the day that is in it, forget about all the other grapes varieties out there. I encourage you to experiment; discover a lesser known wine region, explore a country you have never tried before or spend a few euro more, see if it tastes any different.
The Secretary Bird, Sauvignon Blanc, Western Cape, South Africa 2017
A cracking wine, crisp with ripe citrus notes, gooseberry and passionfruit, refreshing acidity and a fruity finish.
(Available from WineOnline.ie €12.00)
Hunky Dory, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand 2017
A stunning wine beautifully crafted made with organic grapes, exotic aromas leading to tropical fruit salad flavours, mouth-watering acidity and a never ending dry finish.
(Available in independent wine merchants – Sweeney’s of Glasnevin, Blackrock Cellars, Co. Dublin, The Wine Centre, Kilkenny, approx. €19.00)
Domaine Francois Crochet, Sancerre, France 2016
This is a delicate and elegant wine with many layers, aromas of zesty lime, honeyed melon and peach notes which follow through on the palate with added hints of minerality. It is richly textured, yet fresh creating a perfectly balanced wine, stunning with fresh dover sole.
(Available in Searsons, Monkstown approx. €28.00)
Check out if your local wine merchants are having a Sauvignon Blanc tasting to celebrate or check out TheTaste.ie wine diary.
Hi, I am Lynda Coogan owner of Wine Tasting Ireland, I am delighted to be part of The Taste team where I can passionately share my love and knowledge of wine with you. I hold a WSET Diploma in wine, I have ten years’ experience in the wine trade and I am a member of the Guild of Sommeliers. Wine Tasting Ireland, specialises in hosting fun, interactive wine tastings for groups. I believe that by going back to basics, wine can be appreciated by everyone, a little knowledge goes a long way! We come to you, bring all that’s needed to set up a unique, bespoke wine tasting event in your offices, your home or any venue. They are ideal for team building at work, a social gathering or a special occasion. I would love to hear from you, so please get in touch.