Sauvignon Blanc is one of the world’s most popular grapes

Sauvignon Blanc is one of the world’s most popular grapes
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Love Sauvignon Blanc? Try These Five Alternative Styles

Sauvignon Blanc is one of the world’s most popular grapes. But don’t get stuck in a rut: here are five lesser known wine styles for Sav Blanc fans to explore.

1. Verdejo

Intimately associated with Spain’s Rueda region, Verdejo is a great stand in for Sauvignon Blanc, offering that same invigoratingly crisp, zesty character. Indeed, the two varieties are often blended together. Usually unoaked, Verdejo wines combine citrus freshness with a savoury, herbal edge.

Some producers also seek to elevate Verdejo above a simple quaffing style, using oak and low yielding old bush vines to create a more textured, mineral expression that will age. Telmo Rodriguez does an excellent job with both styles of Rueda Verdejo: his Basa Blanco offers vibrant refreshment, while his El Transistor shows the complexity of which this grape is capable.

2. Ribolla Gialla

This native of Italy’s Friuli and neighbouring Slovenia found itself being widely replaced by the more easily marketable Sauvignon Blanc, but is now enjoying a welcome resurgence of interest. Light, floral and crisp, its lemony notes and tangy acidity are balanced by charming almond and subtle peach elements. Look no further for your aperitif or summer salad match.

Generally designed to be drunk young, Ribolla Gialla can also show a more serious, age-worthy side in the hands of producers such as Jermann or Gravner. Here the grape takes on a smoky, tannic grip, its vibrancy accompanied by a flavour array of intriguing complexity. For a lighter – yet still very rewarding – expression, look out for the beautiful labels of Visintini.

3. Semillon blends

Both Bordeaux and cooler corners of Australia have particular expertise in adding an extra dimension to their Sauvignon Blanc by blending it with Semillon. The vibrant acidity and aromatics of the former are complemented by the weight and texture of the latter.

Oak often plays a role here, especially in the great, long-lived, rich yet dry white wines of the Graves. First growth Château Haut-Brion is a prime example, as is Domaine de Chevalier. In Australia, there tends to be a beautiful, piercing vibrancy to this “SBS” style, with Margaret River a particular specialist. Order a bottle of Cullen’s Mangan Vineyard with your seafood platter and try to imagine a more perfect summer lunch.

4. Assyrtiko

If it’s the racy refreshment of Sauvignon Blanc you prize then assertive Assyrtiko should definitely be on your radar. This Greek grape thrives in the hot, dry, windy conditions of Santorini, but its ability to retain acidity in the Mediterranean sun has made the variety an increasingly popular choice on the mainland too.

Acting like a squeeze of citrus on your fresh sea bream, Assyrtiko balances vibrancy with a cooling, mineral edge that is especially pronounced when grown on the volcanic soils of Santorini. Lees contact or even oak can bring extra body and complexity. For a benchmark example reach for the Assyrtiko from Hatzidakis. Argyros is another star producer.

5. Bacchus

Love that hedgerow freshness of Loire Sauvignon? Then hop across the English Channel, where the suitably named Bacchus grape has proved its ability to deliver fresh, ripe, charming still wine despite the challenges of this notoriously cool climate.

Nettle, gooseberry and the softly floral, grassy waft of a country stroll on a perfect summer’s day, English Bacchus captures its surroundings perfectly. Chapel Down makes one of the more impressive examples from its top vineyard, Kit’s Coty, while Hush Heath takes a more tropical, New Zealand-inspired direction with its Liberty’s Bacchus.

Gabriel Stone
Gabriel Stone
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