Polarised perceptions

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Related tags: Sauvignon blanc, Wine

We have all heard the expression, "one man's meat is another man's poison" and never has a saying been more apt when it comes to people's taste in...

We have all heard the expression, "one man's meat is another man's poison" and never has a saying been more apt when it comes to people's taste in wine. Whilst having a drink with one or two friends in a pub recently, I overheard some people discussing the qualities of the bottle of white wine they were sharing. One thought that it was freshly acidic and mouth watering whilst another described it as tart. I wasn't in the least surprised ­ polarised opinions in relation to wines are fairly common. Many people, for instance, and I am one of them, love the warm, earthy smell of red Burgundy, whilst others say it smells like a farmyard. Through a glass, palely Wines that are made from the Sauvignon Blanc grape very often generate similar reactions. The classic example of this is that those who dislike the Sauvignon Blanc describe it as smelling of cat pee whilst those who like it, insist that it has a grassy, vegetal bouquet. I have always associated the Sauvignon Blanc with the sub region of the Loire valley known as the Central Vineyards. This is the home of Sancerre, Pouilly-Fumé, Menetou Salon, Reuilly and Quincy, all of which are made from the Sauvignon Blanc. Of those, Sancerre is by far the most famous and is produced around the village of the same name which is located some 120 miles south of Paris. At its best it has a fresh, lively acidity and an assertive herbaceous taste with hints of raw blackcurrant. Unsurprisingly, it is very similar to Pouilly-Fumé which is produced on the opposite bank of the Loire. On a smaller production scale, the wines of nearby Menetou Salon, Reuilly and Quincy can be equally rewarding. Menetou Salon for instance, is an attractive wine which occasionally achieves incredible intensity of flavour but which is softer in style than Sancerre. Reuilly is similar, if a little lighter and softer still, as is Quincy, but both have only a small production, even compared to Menetou Salon. Even so, they are available, and small, as they say, is beautiful, making them well worth stocking, in that they can provide that classy edge to a wine list. Home thoughts from abroad The success of the Sauvignon Blanc in France's Central Vineyards has caused winemakers elsewhere to sit up and take notice. In fact, winemakers around the globe have tried, with varying degrees of success, to emulate that exhilarating, dry, crisp fruitiness. New Zealand comes close, very close. In actual fact, there are many who assert that New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc has now surpassed its French counterpart. To begin with though, it wasn't at all straightforward in that all the lovely little nuances which occasionally surface in good Sauvignon Blanc were overstated and the subtle edge was lost in a veritable explosion of grassy, vegetal and tropical fruit flavours. Not the thing at all. A little more restraint is practised now and this, together with the merest hint of wood ageing, can bring it close to eclipsing the best examples from the Loire valley. In the end though, it comes down to personal preference and price. And, as the price of some of the best offerings from New Zealand can be greater than that of their French counterparts, it is largely a question of judgement as to whether the perceived higher quality of the New Zealand offerings can justify a higher price on our wine list. In other words, will we be able to move it? With the possible exceptions of South Africa and Chile, both of which produce some very impressive wines from the Sauvignon Blanc, offerings from other parts of the wine-making world are inconsequential by comparison. In the Margaret River area of South Western Australia, there has been some experimentation with different yeasts and fermentation temperatures which could result in some good Sauvignon Blanc in the future. In the USA too, there is some fairly reasonable Sauvignon Blanc coming out of Washington State but again, not really in the same league as the French and New Zealand offerings. For my money, the French Sauvignon Blanc wines achieve levels of grace and elegance which are hard to match but some of them, especially Reuilly and Quincy, can be difficult to source. But if all else fails, Majestic Wine Warehouses stock the full range. db@adsum.demon.co.uk

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