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Saving Sauvignon Blanc

Once upon a time, not too long ago, Sauvignon Blanc was a classic and white of choice for many in Australia. So how did it fall out of fashion? What scared the people off? Where to from here? Here is our guide to getting the most from a pure, elegant and actually enjoyable Sauvignon Blanc. Image:
Where did we go wrong?

Poor sauvignon blanc – it’s a grape with a bad reputation for being a bit basic; chock full of passionfruit, green melon, gooseberry, green capsicum, and – at its absolute worst – even cat pee. But we’re here to tell you, a good savvy b can be an absolute delight.

What makes a Sauvignon Blanc great?

So, how did the once classic style end up being a wine many drinkers avoid ? Perhaps it’s the oversimplified idea that certain grapes taste like certain things, when in fact, the flavour of a wine is impacted by multiple factors.

The where – region specific style, terroir, vessel.

The when – what vintage ? Was it picked early, at full ripeness or even late ?

And the who – does this winemaker favour classical styles or texture, new world, skin contact ?


Also of note : Sauv Blanc (alongside the other main Bordeaux grapes – Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Carménère, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon) contains methoxypyrazine  – which is a compound that can be responsible for the potential asparagus / wet green capsicum flavours commonly associated with unpleasant Savvy B experiences.

So what do I look for?

There are ways to avoid the prominence of these flavours (pruning, as well as environmental factors can inhibit the presence of pyrazines), and so not all Sauvignon Blancs taste like the notoriously grassy styles produced in the Marlborough region of New Zealand.

For example, in Bordeaux the wines are often blended with Semillon and are traditionally made in either a dry style – commonly identified by notes of grapefruit, citrus and summer florals – or in a richer, opulent style characterised by caramel, apricot and honeysuckle. In the Loire, the most well known styles are Pouilly-Fumé, and Sancerre. The former comes from the region of Pouilly-sur-Loire and gets its name from both the greyish ‘bloom*’ on the grapes when they reach maturity, as well as a characteristic flinty, smoky bouquet. Sancerre (just a grape’s throw away) produces slightly more herbaceous, voluptuous wines. Both styles pair exceptionally well with chevre cheese, green salad, and afternoons spent picnicking next to a river.

And, utilised worldwide by natural winemakers from Radikon to Brave New Wine, Sauvignon Blanc also enjoys skin contact. A green waxy skinned grape, the addition of skins often leads to cloudy, chalky and textural wines, with amplified flavours of tropical fruits and melon, pithy citrus and assertive acid. The kind of wines that are perfect for long, warm Spring evenings, backyard dinner parties and all sorts of seafood.

So, whether blended or standing solo, there’s a style of Sauvignon Blanc for everyone. Do not be afraid ! Like all wine, experiment, experience, interrogate and most of all – enjoy.

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