Stylish Sauvignon

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Related tags: Sauvignon blanc, Wine, Cabernet sauvignon

Of all the classic grape varieties, Sauvignon Blanc is arguably the one which polarises wine drinkers more than any other. There are those, and I am...

Of all the classic grape varieties, Sauvignon Blanc is arguably the one which polarises wine drinkers more than any other. There are those, and I am one, who love the fresh, assertive style with aromas of newly-mown grass, baking apples and gooseberries. There are others, however, who are less appreciative and insist that it has the reek of tom cats about it! In Bordeaux it is traditionally blended with Semillon to make Bordeaux Blanc, and also adds acidity to the Semillon-based sweet wines of Sauternes, and is a major component in many of the wines of Graves. In the Loire Valley, especially around Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé, the Sauvignon Blanc is a solo performer, producing wines with fresh, lively acidity and an assertive, herbaceous taste. These qualities have not gone unnoticed in other wine-making countries. In America, notably California, not wishing to make a wine as untamed as Sancerre, they tend to mimic the style of white Bordeaux ­ hardly surprising in a nation which flings syrup on the breakfast bacon. Robert Mondavi got it right for the American market when he made a mildly oak-aged version and called it "Blanc Fumé". Many other American wine makers have followed his example and studiously stuck to the middle of the road, avoiding any expression of individuality. By comparison to California, New Zealand wine makers, especially in the Marlborough district of South Island, prefer to emulate those Sauvignon Blanc wines which are produced in the Loire Valley. This is no chance coincidence as the "terroir" and climate are ideally suited to this particular style and variety. There is no right or wrong though ­ the Californians make one style and the New Zealanders another. But so far, of the two, the wine drinkers of the world, including those who drink wine in pubs, quite definitely prefer the New Zealand style. I wholeheartedly agree. Who wants to see a wild animal tamed and locked up in a cage of oak? For my part, I think that the true spiritual home of the Sauvignon Blanc is theLoire Valley in France, where they understand this temperamental grape and where it feels most at home. Traditionally, the epicentre of excellence for the Sauvignon Blanc lies between the towns of Pouilly sur Loire and Sancerre, both of which produce excellent wines that are justifiably world famous. But my own preference is a point just south west of Sancerre, around a small village called Menetou Salon. Here they produce not just a dry white, but a wine of such charm and intensity of flavour that you could be forgiven for thinking that Bacchus himself had helped in the production. As a bonus, it usually comes at a more reasonable price than Sancerre. But it doesn't end there. Move even further west, and a touch south, from Menetou Salon and you will come first to Quincy and then to Reuilly, both of which produce superb wines from the Sauvignon Blanc. Here, close to the river Cher (which is a tributary of the Loire) where the soil is predominantly chalk, the wines are softer and more relaxed whilst still retaining that unique Sauvignon Blanc quality. I can reveal, from recent experience at a dinner party at my home in south west France, that both Quincy and Reuilly went down extremely well with Nile Perch poached in a lemon butter sauce. To be honest, they would complement just about any subtly-flavoured fish dish. Licensees who are interested in featuring any or all of these lovely, stylish Sauvignon Blanc wines from the Loire Valley, will be pleased to know that the full range can be purchased from Majestic, which has branches nationwide and which will deliver at no extra cost.

Related topics: Wine

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