It’s International Sauvignon Blanc Day on Friday, May 6. Likely originating in the Loire Valley, this relatively early ripening, high acid grape is one of the parent grapes of Cabernet Sauvignon, the world’s most widely planted grape variety. Its name is derived from ‘Sauvage,’ meaning ‘wild,’ a fitting term for a vigorous vine.
Ready to sell soon after the harvest, stridently aromatic, sappy, herbaceous, razor-sharp and easily recognisable, Sauvignon Blanc (SB) is a distinctly divisive Marmite of a grape – its telltale twang is hardly subtle – that’s enjoying increased worldwide popularity. With the weather getting warmer, it’s the perfect time of the year to open a chilled bottle, and here I’ve selected five characterful Sauv Blancs from around the globe.
1. 2021 South Point Sauvignon Blanc, Western Cape, South Africa
(£6.50, Tesco, 12.5%)
South Africa is one of the southern hemisphere’s most thrilling wine-producing countries, with superb wines at keen prices, just like this one. It’s a great-value, crisp and vibrant SB with fresh-cut grass, gooseberry, capsicum and citrussy acidity the front runners, plus some green pepper, tomato leaf and grapefruit pith nuances lurking in the background.
2. 2021 Irresistible Leyda Valley Sauvignon Blanc, Chile
(£8, Co-op, 12.5%)
Many countries produce SB – by far the UK’s number one grape variety of choice – but New Zealand is still easily the market leader. In the year up to January 2022 retail sales amounted to some £1 billion, £488m more than the next most popular grape, Pinot Grigio. Coastal Chile, however, is in an attractive position to fill some of the gaps due to recent Kiwi harvest challenges. Owing principally to spring frosts and summer drought, the low-yielding 2021 vintage (the smallest harvest in six years) produced millions fewer cases than usual in New Zealand. SB is now Chile’s second most planted grape variety (15%). Try this herby one, a joyfully bright example from breezy vineyards near the Pacific coast in cooler Leyda, all white currants, peapod, grapefruit and green bean fruit. Superbly zesty and terrific value, just like Aldi’s verdant 2021 Specially Selected Chilean Estevez Sauvignon Blanc (a steal at £5.99, in-store only). They’re the country’s two best supermarket own-label Chilean SBs under £10 and superb with fish and chips.
3. 2021 Villa Maria Cellar Selection Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand
New Zealand’s (NZ) signature grape and one of the wine world’s greatest commercial success stories, SB accounted for nearly 75% of the total volume of the grapes harvested during the small (but stellar) 2021 vintage. Nab this starry example before stocks run out. An astute blend of selected high-class parcels of fruit from the cool/windy Awatere Valley and the warmer Wairau Valley subregions of Marlborough, it has a wealth of concentrated flavours and superb balance. Brimming with tingling passion fruit, bell pepper (hello methoxypyrazines), melon, gooseberry and pink grapefruit, it’s a vivid, pungent, intense, and refreshing cracker with a lip-smacking finish, Attractive drinking with regional and varietal pedigree intact. Perfect with a Fattoush salad or scallops. Snap it up!
4. 2019 Château de Rochemorin, Vignobles André Lurton, Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux
The production of Bordeaux AOC wine is around 85% red, 10% white, 4 per cent rosé and 1% sweet white. Its refreshing unoaked and deftly-oaked whites (usually blends, but not in this case) are worth discovering. This one from a fastidiously-managed, fairly youthful vineyard in Martillac in the gravelly northern Graves is a debonair 100% barrel-fermented – around 10 months in oak barrels (35% new) on full lees with bâtonnage – dry SB from an excellent producer. Think beeswax, peach, hazelnut, nectarine, fig leaves, cut grass, lemon curd, a soupçon of swish, toasty clove oak and a rinse of refreshing grapefruity acidity. One for fish in a creamy sauce, pan-fried salmon, briny oysters or gravadlax (but go easy on the sweet mustard sauce). Stylish stuff with a beautifully rounded texture. Could be cellared confidently for five or more years.
5. 2020 Langlois-Chateau, Château de Fontaine-Audon Sancerre ‘Terroir Silex,’ France
Yes, Sancerre whites are made from 100% SB and this reference AOC for the grape lies in the easternmost stretch of the Loire Valley’s main vineyard area, just 100km away from Burgundy’s northernmost district, Chablis (Chardonnay country). Here’s a truly elegant, concentrated and ‘minerally’ example produced on the flinty Silex soils of Sainte-Gemme-en-Sancerrois in north-western Sancerre. Crisp, medium-bodied, stony, tangy, grassy and pure, it has great intensity, strikes with taste, holds the volume, and then crackles through a gloriously long finish. Excellent quality from Bollinger-owned Langlois-Chateau. A delicious bottle for posh picnics and to sip with seafood, raw oysters, smoked salmon, goat’s cheese, asparagus or simply grilled fish.
Other notable producers of interesting, racy SB (some favourites):
- Dog Point(New Zealand)
- Klein Constantia Estate(South Africa)
- Larry Cherubino(Australia)
- Vie di Romans(Italy)
Follow James on Twitter @QuixoticWine