In Praise of Sauvignon Blanc – and Poodles
An apt comparison: Sauvignon Blanc and poodles
Sauvignon Blanc is one of the most popular grape varieties in the world. Yet many wine experts say they don’t like it. Although considered a “noble” variety – along with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Riesling, and Chardonnay – people who confess to being wine lovers often scorn and avoid it. This is a big mistake.
A French Original
Sauvignon Blanc’s pre-eminent European expression is from the Loire Valley. Edmond Vatan’s single-site Sancerre from Clos de la Neore exemplifies the profound Kimmeridgian minerality of which it is capable. In Bordeaux, its original home, it is usually in a blend; the legendary Haut Brion Blanc (half Sauvignon Blanc, half Semillon, with a bit of Sauvignon Gris) can age for decades, gaining an unforgettable honeycomb and beeswax character. Among collectors, however, Bordeaux ‘s whites tend to be overlooked in favour of Burgundy.
Ubiquity and Snobbery
New Zealand’s Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is the modern classic with a winning formula: all the zestiness of a cocktail, refreshing and vivid acidity and the alcohol level of wine rather than vodka. Cloudy Bay’s Te Koko adds a refined oak influence to the crystalline purity, vibrancy and the zingy tropical fruit. However, most wines made in the intense Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc style, popular though they may be, are about as far away as it is possible to be from the low intervention, low input wine movement, which most wine experts and critics like to champion. The hundreds of thousands of hectolitres of undistinguished, fruity, zesty, but sometimes vegetal (green beans, pea shoots, cat’s pee anyone?) Sauvignon Blancs that pour out of Chile, Argentina, Western Australia, as well as France, Spain and Italy, are often of a quality that does no one any favours. Because Sauvignon Blanc has become so ubiquitous – so much so that it is just as often found lurking in the average glass of Rueda as under its own name – it is avoided altogether by those who consider themselves to have more discerning palates, or who are seeking out ‘fine’ wines.
"Poodles are highly intelligent; and Sauvignon Blanc makes some of the world’s most bewitching wines." Robin Lee
This, however, is just like blaming poodles for the fact that they have been, on occasion, spotted with ridiculous (and demeaning) haircuts. Poodles are highly intelligent; and Sauvignon Blanc makes some of the world’s most bewitching wines: from Duncan Savage’s raspy, but creamy textured Salt River Sauvignon Blanc from the Western Cape in South Africa to the captivating site-specific Sauvignon Blancs made by Vie de Romans in Friuli, Italy, to Weingut Wohlmuth’s rich and ripe Ried Edelschuh from Styria in southern Austria to Charlie Herring’s Fermament with its intriguing aromas of cow parsley and freshly mown hay, produced from a few rows of vines in a Victorian walled garden in Hampshire, England. In Napa, it is still possible to find Robert Mondavi’s profound and colossal I-Block Sauvignon Blanc, made from gnarly old vines in the legendary To Kalon vineyard.
Have you ever come across a dog lover who says he hates poodles? Are you a wine lover who says you don’t care much for Sauvignon blanc? If so, it’s time to think again.