Friday 24 May 2019

Rethink sauvignon blanc

'Aromatic, vivid and distinctive': Sauvignon blanc
'Aromatic, vivid and distinctive': Sauvignon blanc
Exquisite Collection Touraine Sauvignon Blanc 2017, €7.99
Greywacke Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2017, €26.99

We've all heard of ABC - anything but Chardonnay - and if you thought, 'yep, that's me, I've had it up to here with oaky Chardonnay,' chances are the next wine you fell in love with was New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Aromatic, vivid and distinctive, it is immediately recognisable with its grassy burst of gooseberry, grapefruit, lime and tropical fruit.

Its racy acidity made it a refreshing change from the flabby flavours of butterscotch and pineapple that had come to characterise New World Chardonnay (which has since changed hugely), and like all great movements, it had an iconic leader. Cloudy Bay is the wine that launched the New Zealand style of Sauvignon Blanc, and its quality, price and small allocations, meant it attained cult status, pretty much as soon as the ship docked.

If, like me, you abandoned Chardonnay for this zingy, unoaked newcomer, you probably took up a Montana habit (now called Brancott Estate), followed by Oyster Bay, followed by any number of 'Bay' named entry level clones until, finally, you were not just bored to tears with eyes watering from the acidity, but started to put considerable distance between yourself and any of the thoroughly chilled bottles.

While there doesn't seem to be any pithy little acronym for Sauvignon Blanc refusniks, I've heard plenty of pejorative mutterings of 'elderflower-schmelderflower' from former fans, and yes, we all know we're really talking about cat pee here. If you'd like the science word for it, it's a thiol.

But whether you've become an Albariño fan (not getting tired of that one anytime soon) or a Grüner Veltliner lover since you parted ways, for one day only, pick up a glass of Sauvignon Blanc.

Because next Friday, it's got its very own special international day. And in case you think this is some big marketing ruse (which of course it is), Sauvignon Blanc Day started out quite innocently in California as an online tasting initiative using social media.

If you're not prepared to kiss and make-up with the intense aromas of New Zealand just yet, opt for a French Sauvignon Blanc, because it is there in the Loire Valley where its true spiritual home lies. The name Sauvignon is from the French word 'sauvage', meaning 'wild', and as one of the parents of Cabernet Sauvignon (the other being Cabernet Franc), this 500-year-old grape has considerable provenance.

If you're looking to try something completely different, I have a recommendation for you. At a recent wine tasting, all the sommeliers in town were clamouring around a bottle of Sebastien Riffault's Sancerre 'Les Quarterons'. Biodynamic? Mais oui.

It has exotic flavours of tamarind, saffron and a slight raisin character on the finish, but is bone dry. You'll find it in Green Man Wines, 64 Wine, Sheridans Cheesemongers and, for €30-€32.


Exquisite Collection Touraine Sauvignon Blanc 2017, €7.99

12.5pc, from Aldi

Exquisite Collection Touraine Sauvignon Blanc 2017, €7.99

Clean and restrained on the palate, this easy-drinking white is fresh and light bodied with the grassy flavours of the Loire, crisp green apples and plenty of citrus acidity. Good to drink on its own or have it with asparagus or a Greek salad in the summer months.

Greywacke Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2017, €26.99

13pc, from O’Briens Wine, Fallon & Byrne, 64 Wine, Mitchell & Son, Donnybrook Fair, Blackrock Cellar, Mortons, Sweeneys, all Dublin; The Wicklow Wine Co; O’Donovans, Cork; and leading independents

Greywacke Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2017, €26.99

Made by Kevin Judd, the former winemaker of Cloudy Bay, this is textbook, top-quality New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc with laser definition and minerality.

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