Not sure about sauvignon blanc ? For me it helps to know where you sit (and sip) on the flavour spectrum.
Fans blissfully imbibe this wine, while detractors describe it as “cat’s pee ” or sweaty armpits. Devotees like it cold on a hot day. The cynics wouldn’t be seen dead with a glass yet offer them chilled Sancerre and they’ll purr words such as “clean, crisp and minerally”. Like so many things in life, there is truth in both extremes.
Under the wine laws of France, sauvignon blanc is the mandatory white grape of the Sancerre region. When planted in the area’s chalk – laden soils, it takes on a unique personality : subtle and charming, restrained and discreet, an excellent example of terroir, that indefinable word that expresses a wine’s sense of place rather than its variety.
The other distinct terroir for sauvignon blanc is Marlborough, on New Zealand’s south island. It’s recent (and equally valid) terroir, first recognised with the pivotal 1985 Cloudy Bay sauvignon blanc. Fresh – cut grass, goosebarry, passion fruit, white stone fruit and kiwi fruit define good Marlborough sauvignon blanc. Overt asparagus, capsicum and lantana describe thin, overcropped, high-acid sauv blanc, usally propped up with residual sugar to give a sweet / sour finish. It’s this stuff that irks purists.
Sauvignon blanc represents 76.9% of NZ’s wine production and an amazing 1.3 billions $ of its wine exports (over 1.6 billions $ total), with Australia being the largest market. Other NZ regions besides Marlborough grow sauv blanc, often in a more subtle style. While fresh, slurpable savvies fill the mainstream, at the periphery are sophisticated, complex styles made using the artifices of chardonnay.
Winemaker Kevin Judd pioneered Cloudy Bay’s Te Koko, a barrel fermented sauvignon blanc, which he has redefined under his own Greywacke label. It has honeydew melon, lemongrass and a whiff of fresh fennel. This wine is making waves across the Atlantic.
Another great sauvignon that I’ve tasted is the Dog Point Section 94, similarly complex from two ex Cloudy Bay mates. The texture is compelling, the finish equally so.
Sauvignon blanc dominates the white wine marketplace by catering to all tastes, from the simply pure to the thoughtful and exotic. It’s just a question of choosing a style.