Monday, July 21, 2008

Joanna Simon in The Sunday Times, July 13, 2008: The rise of Sauvignon Blanc

It’s a sign of the rise in popularity of sauvignon blanc that next month sees the first World Sauvignon Congress. Apparently, scientists and professionals involved with the variety all over the world will be attending. But they won’t be there just for a bit of back-patting. Although sales are booming, not least in the UK, the event aims to “enhance sauvignon’s prestige”, because, as the founders see it, sauvignon doesn’t get its due. They say it’s “often underestimated and is rarely ranked as high as certain red wines and chardonnay”.

I know what they mean. I was tasting with a top UK sommelier the other day and when we came to the sauvignons, he said, without pausing for breath, that like most of his peers he didn’t like the variety.

Sommeliers suffer from over-exposure to endless customers asking for Sancerre, Pouilly-Fumé and New Zealand sauvignons, as if there weren’t any other whites, but there is another reason sauvignon gets shortshrift from some pros. Unlike chardonnay et al, it rarely improves with age, so almost all should be drunk young. To me that’s one of the attractions.

2007 Dourthe No 1 Sauvignon Blanc, £5.66-£8.49
20th vintage of this consistently good, zesty white Bordeaux (Wine Rack, £5.66 when you buy 3; Waitrose, £6.99).

2007 Clos Henri Sauvignon Blanc, £13
Best of both worlds: made in New Zealand by a Sancerre grower. Smoky gooseberry intensity; potential to age (Les Caves de Pyrene, 01483 554750).

2007 Iona Sauvignon Blanc, £9.99
Exceptionally pure fruit and minerality from the Cape (Waitrose).

“Cabernet sauvignon is an offspring of sauvignon blanc.”
Anorak Fact: DNA testing has shown that cabernet sauvignon resulted from sauvignon blanc crossing with cabernet franc.