Times Drinks editor James Viner has chosen five crisp bottles from different parts of the world for you to raise to a mouth-watering glass.
It’s International Sauvignon Blanc Day on Friday, May 6th. Probably originating from the Loire Valley, this relatively early maturing and very acidic grape variety is one of the parent varieties of Cabernet Sauvignon, the most planted grape variety in the world. Its name is derived from ‘Sauvage’, which means ‘wild’, an appropriate term for a vigorous vine.
Ready to sell soon after harvest, stridently aromatic, sappy, grassy, razor-sharp and easily recognizable, Sauvignon Blanc (SB) is a distinctly dividing varietal pot – its telltale accent is hardly subtle – which enjoys increasing popularity around the world. With the weather warming up, it’s the perfect time of year to open a bottle chilled, and here I’ve selected five characterful Sauv Blancs from around the world.
1. 2021 South Point Sauvignon Blanc, Western Cape, South Africa
(£6.50, Tesco, 12.5%)
South Africa is one of the most exciting wine countries in the southern hemisphere, with superb wines at competitive prices, just like this one. This is a great value SB, lively and vibrant with fresh cut grass, gooseberry, bell pepper and citrus acidity in the top, as well as green pepper undertones, of tomato leaf and grapefruit pith in the background.
2. 2021 Irresistible Leyda Valley Sauvignon Blanc, Chile
(£8, co-op, 12.5%)
Many countries produce SB – by far the UK’s favorite grape variety – but New Zealand remains largely the market leader. In the year to January 2022, retail sales were around £1bn, £488m more than the second most popular grape variety, pinot grigio. Coastal Chile, however, is in an attractive position to fill some of the gaps due to recent challenges in the kiwifruit harvest. Mainly due to spring frosts and summer drought, the low-yielding 2021 vintage (the smallest harvest in six years) produced millions of cases less than usual in New Zealand. SB is now the second most planted grape variety in Chile (15%). Try this one, a cheerfully bright example from the breezy vineyards near the Pacific coast in the cooler Leyda region, all white currants, peas, grapefruit and green beans. Superbly spicy and great value for money, just like Aldi’s verdant 2021 Estevez Specially Selected Chilean Sauvignon Blanc (a £5.99 steal, in-store only). These are the two best Chilean SBs under £10 supermarket in the country and superb with fish and chips.
3. 2021 Villa Maria Cellar Selection Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand
(£11.99-£12.99, Morrisons, New Zealand House of Wine & Majestic, 14%)
An iconic New Zealand (NZ) grape variety and one of the wine world’s biggest business successes, SB accounted for almost 75% of the total volume of grapes harvested during the small (but stellar) 2021 vintage. Catch this star-studded example before supplies ran out. A clever blend of high quality selected fruit plots sourced from the cool, breezy Awatere Valley and the warmer Wairau Valley sub-regions of Marlborough, it has a wealth of concentrated flavors and superb balance. Bursting with passion fruit, bell peppers (hello methoxypyrazines), melon, gooseberry and pink grapefruit, it’s a crisp, tangy, intense and refreshing cracker with a lip-smacking finish, an appealing drink with an intact regional and varietal pedigree. Perfect with a Fattoush salad or scallops. Hang on!
4. 2019 Rochemorin Castle, André Lurton Vineyards, Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux
(£17.99, Waitrose and Waitrose winery, 13%)
The production of Bordeaux AOC is approximately 85% red, 10% white, 4% rosé and 1% sweet. His refreshing unoaked and skillfully oaked whites (usually blends, but not in this case) are worth checking out. This one from a fairly young and meticulously managed vineyard in Martillac in the gravelly northern Graves is a debonair 100% barrel-fermented – about 10 months in oak barrels (35% new) on full lees with stirring – SB dry d an excellent producer. Think beeswax, peach, hazelnut, nectarine, fig leaves, grass clippings, lemon curd, a hint of swish, toasted clove oak and a rinse of refreshing grapefruit acidity. One for fish in creamy sauce, seared salmon, salted oysters or gravadlax (but go easy on the sweet mustard sauce). Sleek stuff with a beautifully rounded texture. Can be cellared with confidence for five years or more.
5. 2020 Langlois-Château, Château de Fontaine-Audon Sancerre ‘Terroir Silex,’ France
(£17.50-£21.99, The Champagne Company, Thorne Wines & Villeneuve Wines, 12.5%)
Yes, the white Sancerre are made from 100% SB and this reference AOC for the variety is located in the easternmost part of the main Loire Valley vineyard, just 100 km from the northernmost region of the Loire Valley. Burgundy, Chablis (country of Chardonnay). Here is a truly elegant, concentrated and “minerally” example produced on the Silex Silex soils of Sainte-Gemme-en-Sancerrois in the northwest of Sancerre. Crisp, medium-bodied, stony, tart, grassy and pure, it has great intensity, hits with flavor, holds volume, then crackles through a gloriously long finish. Excellent quality from Langlois-Chateau, owned by Bollinger. A delicious bottle for fancy picnics and to sip with seafood, raw oysters, smoked salmon, goat cheese, asparagus or just grilled fish.
Other notable producers of interesting and racy SBs (a few favorites):
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