Recently I attended a Sauvignon Blanc tasting that has made me think again about this varietal. I have noticed that there has been a growing number of people who have mentioned to me in the past year that they had moved on from Sauvignon Blanc, just as they no longer touched Chardonnay. I do not reach for it often myself unless it is a Sauvignon Blanc with something different to offer as I have felt that the very pronounced characters that have become popular have become an assault on my senses if I have more than a glass– particularly some Sauvignon Blancs from New Zealand.
The Age reported on 9th January 2010 that while Chardonnay sales dropped $108 million per year from 2004 to 2009, Sauvignon Blanc sales increased an astounding $300 million to $345 million in the same period. It also reported back in October (Oct 19, 2009) that Kiwi imports now account for 70% of the sales of Sauvignon Blanc in Australia. While there has been a migration from Chardonnay to Sauvignon Blanc, it is obvious to me that the Australian love affair with the Thai spices has also had a great effect on the growth of Sauvignon Blanc in our wine repertoire. That and the fact that now Sauvignon Blanc from across the Tasman costs less than ever.
The tasting I attended was limited to Australian and New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs and I make point out that there is a growing supply of very well made French Sauvignon Blancs available in Australia from Sancerre or Pouilly Fume that offer quite a different Sauvignon Blanc experience. Wines from these regions often have characters that range from flinty to passionfruit and may have a quieter nature than the robust Kiwi.
Being a white varietal originating from the hallowed region of Bordeaux, the grape seems to have a natural affinity in West Australia in regions such as Margaret River, Pemberton and Frankland River. Here in the West, Sauvignon Blanc blends particularly well with Semillon (it’s Bordeaux partner). At $25, you cannot go passed Vasse Felix Sauvignon Blanc Semillon. The 2009 is showing some light tropical passionfruit with some citrus characters with a long and lingering length. As notable for it’s smoky lime and pineapple character as it is for it’s funky label is 2009 Wine by Brad Semillon Sauvignon Blanc ($17) – a talking point for any table and a good wine.
Good Australian Sauvignon Blanc is not limited to the West however. The cooler climates of Adelaide Hills where it is well entrenched, Orange, Clare and Eden Valleys, even Coonawarra – the home of Katnook Estate Sauvignon Blanc, also suit this grape. The fresh and zingy The Lane 2008 Sauvignon Blanc Semillon from Adelaide Hills with a touch of oak and lanolin, lemon and pineapple gives Vasse Felix a run for its money.
To keep the trans-Tasman peace, I will list 5 suggestions from each NZ and Oz, and being polite (on this occasion) I will let the Kiwi’s go first.
Five Sauvignon Blancs to try from New Zealand:
The cultish Cloudy Bay 2009 Sauvignon Blanc is pungent and generous.
Villa Maria Cellar Selection 2009 Sauvignon Blanc ($27) with its tropical passionfruit, lime fruit with zesty mouthwatering acid and admirable length. Its sister Villa Maria Private Bin 2009 Sauvignon Blanc ($20) has more flinty minerality and herbaceous characters. Essenze is the kiwi in the McWilliams stable and you will see it’s Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc ($19) popping up everywhere this summer. It’s herbie nose opens up to more tropical herbaceous flavours. And finally … Drift 2009 Sauvignon Blanc ($15) is a rather edgy wine that has more of an Asparagus character to it.
Five Sauvignon Blancs to try from Australia:
Taylors Estate 2008 Sauvignon Blanc ($19) from Adelaide Hills is something a little different with a nose of roses, citrusy lemon and lifted peach aromas, full body and flavours of honey and peach. Definitely worth a try! Also from the Adelaide Hills is Bridgewater Mill 2009 Sauvignon Blanc ($24), a nice refreshingly balanced wine with complex and lightly pungent tropical and citrus characters. Moving back to the West, make room in the fridge for Salitage Wine’s Treehouse 2009 Sauvignon Blanc ($20). This zippy wine has a floral notes lifting and complementing it’s pear and lime characters. From the Margaret River, the Watershed 2008 Senses Sauvignon Blanc ($25) will reveal its surprising honeyed, herbaceousness. Lastly, we cannot forget the region that has been growing in popularity for it’s Sauvignon Blanc – Orange. Cooks Lot 2009 Sauvignon Blanc ($19) again offers a little something different again with perfumed, lifted mandarin and pineapple characters balanced with it’s linear, mouth filling acid.