Today is the 4th International Sauvignon Blanc Day so it seems highly appropriate to have a good look at what this ultra-fashionable grape variety is capable of producing.
From its origins around the Gironde estuary (Bordeaux and its environs) and its long standing history as the chosen varietal of the upper Loire (Sancerre etc.) Sauvignon Blanc has blossomed into an international grape that is planted almost everywhere.
Never has its popularity been as high as it is now and it shows little sign of slowing down. The most famous region nowadays -despite the continued popularity of Sancerre - is probably Marlborough, New Zealand and it is well represented in the wines below. However what you find here is a selection of what I believe are some of the best Sauvignon Blanc offerings in our stores from around the world.
At the easy-drinking, lower price level Chile leads the way and Karu Sauvignon Blanc €7.99 from leading producers Emiliana is a little stalwart, plenty of good, grassy Sauv
ignon aromatics, cool fruit profile but with decent weight. Up a notch or two and Los Vascos Sauvignon Blanc (€13.99) shows off what Chile is capable of at a more premium level. Los Vascos has incredibly lifted aromatics, proper nettle/herb nose and lush fruit on the palate with just the slightest hint of tropical fruit; gorgeous wine.
Jump across the Atlantic and over to Stellenbosch, South Africa and here you will find Sauvignons that are made in a very lively, fruit-driven style, albeit a little rounder and less crisp than most New Zealand versions. Delheim Sauvignon Blanc €12.99 is a case in point, 100% Sauvignon in its aromatic and flavour profile with a lovely smooth feel to the palate.
But what of the cultural homes of Sauvignon Blanc? - Bordeaux and the Loire. Well in Bordeaux it is very often blended with Semillon and even Muscadelle and there are lots of little gems to be found here - particularly as it is often overlooked, being very much red wine country.
One wine I reach for on a regular basis is Château Freynelle €12.99; open, fragrant nose, instantly appealing but it is on the concentrated, mineral driven palate that this little beauty really excels. Move north and closer to the Loire and one of France’s newest appellations Haut Poitou is producing amazingly pungent, expressive Sauvignons. Les Petales Sauvignon Blanc is a revelation; incredibly lifted and nose tingling in style and thankfully following through with this level of intensity on the palate.
Further north Sancerre itself is never cheap but can deliver quite an experience. If you really want to treat yourself to the very best or need to buy a really special bottle for a Sancerre fan then it doesn’t get much better than Sancerre d’Antan from Henri Bourgeois (€40).
I have left the trendiest country to the last but that is not a negative reflection, New Zealand is undoubtedly the driving force behind the explosion of Sauvignon Blanc into the world stage. There is such a gamut of great Sauvignons to choose from here that I could list a dozen with ease but current favourite Urlar €12.99 (was €17.99) from Gladstone is a real winner. It has a lusciousness to it and even a slight creaminess but still delivers full-on Sauvignon bell-pepper/vine tomato aromatics and it’s organic to boot… well worth a try
However if you want to see New Zealand’s most famous region, Marlborough, at full throttle then Whitehaven’s top cuvée Greg Sauvignon Blanc - named after co-founder Greg White - is the one to reach for. Unashamedly big, opulent Sauvignon, hugely appealing on the nose and delivering masses of fruit on the palate, this is the real deal.
There are so many more great Sauvignon’s out there and no better day than today to try a new one.
Happy Sauvignon Day!
Navarra is one of Spain’s oldest and most unique wine regions. The vineyards here cover the foothills of the Pyrenees and benefit from a continental climate moderated by Atlantic influences. Here the practice of blending “noble grapes” such and Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot with the native Tempranillo has formed the stylistic profile of Navarran wines. There are many good very estates here but one that has been making itself known more and more in recent years is the highly innovative, quality obsessed producer Tandem.
In a gravity fed winery several unique wines are made and the level of care that goes into making these wines has produced astonishing results. The youngest of the wines is Ars in Vitro €9.99 (was €14.99) a blend of 90% Tempranillo and 10% Merlot. Completely unoaked but receiving 24 months ageing in vats, this moves away from traditional Crianza/Reserva styles and reflects Tandem’s belief in fruit and terroir.
Ars in Vitro is a superb wine, the fruit appears in layers which reveal themselves more and more as the wine breathes. This fruit is backed by a mineral heart and savoury edge that make this a wine to be taken seriously. It is fantastic with food yet silky enough to enjoy a glass without. Think slow roast belly of pork and think of this.
Tandem was founded 11 years ago by Alicia Eyaralar (winemaker) José María Fraile and group of family and friends. Tandem being Latin for "at last" the name expresses the on-going ambition the two founders have had turn their dream into a reality.
The beating heart of Tandem is 22 hectares of vineyards owned and managed by father & son Pedro Jesús and Angel Lizarraga. These 22 hectares at 600m attitude are maintained to exacting standards and the results of this meticulous care are clearly evident in the wines.
Ars Nova €16.99 is the big brother to Ars in Vitro and similarly this wine aims to demonstrate the quality and purity of the fruit. The blend is different, with a 40/40/20 split of Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Bigger and more structured for this very reason Ars Nova - after 24 months in vat - receives 9 months ageing in small French oak barrels. When you taste the wine though, it is the fruit that sings the loudest, there are complex, balsamic & spice accents to it but the fruit is beautiful ripe bramble and is just framed lightly with oak. A fabulous wine that again loves to breathe and as for food this cries out for good fillet of beef or even rich game dishes.
These wines are a far cry from the traditional vanilla scented wines of the region, they are multi-layered, engaging wines that will delight anyone that loves great “terroir” wines and I for one highly recommend a try.
Some terrific wines have landed from some of Italy’s hot spots this month and as the sun finally shakes off its winter manacles now is a good time to think about summer eating, i.e. al fresco dining and good food wines.
Italian wines by nature are designed for food and sitting outside eating fresh pasta served with char-grilled/barbecue chicken and salad washed down with a vibrant Italian red is nothing short of bliss.
Whites too are equally tempting and the top pick this week is Bertani Collezione Lugana €12.99 (was €15.99) made from vineyards bordering Lake Garda this is rapidly becoming one of Italy’s most fashionable whites. So good in fact are the wines from here that the grape variety is no longer believed to be Trebbiano but something unrelated and unique to Lugana – locally called Turbiana. Match this cool, apple and pear white with fried clamari or grilled trout and enjoy.
Salads/Pizza/Pasta Pomodoro all have relatively high acidity perfectly suited to the refreshing character of Italian reds so La Piuma Montepulciano €8.99 (was €10.99) is a brilliant little red for this sort of thing. Ideal if you are having a crowd around this weekend, its abundant juicy, red-berry fruit and smooth profile make it a proper little crown pleaser.
If you are ramping it up a notch or two and a more potent red is called for then Porta Nova Ripasso €12.99 (was €19.99) is not to be missed. This is the epitome of modern, fruit - rich Ripasso, big and smooth with tonnes of fruit but never heavy. Most importantly is that lick of sour cherry on the finish which makes this wine such a great match for so many meater, piquant recipes.
Lastly for a real treat and a wine to match especially well with pork or poultry dishes or even game then Rizzardi Munus €14.99 (was €20.99) is back. Munus is made from old vines from two vineyards in Bardolino by family run, top-flight, estate Guerrieri Rizzardi and is one of the most elegant, complex reds from Italy you are likely to meet. Indeed this vintage has an almost Burgundy-like feel to it and as there are only a couple of hundred cases left snap it up quick – fans of Munus are never long in whipping through the stocks!
Whatever you do this weekend Italy has most of your food & wine solutions covered so pop instore or check out the web for a bit of the dolce vita!
Tags: Italy (2)
More than any other vintage in the last decade this is one in which you have to put your trust not in vintage reports and critics feedback but in individual Château. Those who picked in one of the few ideal ‘rain windows’ and those who went through meticulous selection at harvest time managed to produce quite beautiful wines, those who didn’t, didn’t. These are wines for the mid-term although certain Château have made very structured wines that look like they will have staying power.
What will make this vintage hopefully very attractive is the wines should be relatively affordable. After the very expensive ’09s and ’10s and the ‘big drop’ in 2011 – that never really materialised – Bordeaux have now realised that prices need to come down if they want to move any volume. Already some serious reductions have been seen, others have not been so wise.
We are about to launch our offers and we are only offering wines we believe are genuinely very good for this vintage. Four days of heavy duty tasting in April has given us a very clear view of which wines are really worth getting behind.
St. Estèphe for example was largely disappointing but I would happily stand over the following Châteaux: Ormes de Pez, Lafon Rochet and Phélan Ségur. Moving down the Médoc and there were some very good Pauillacs: Pontet Canet is sublime, Lynch-Bages & it’s baby brother Echo were excellent as were both the Pichons - avoid anything with Grand Puy in the name and Haut-Bages Liberal fell somewhat short of the mark.
St. Julien was again very good, maybe not as homogenous as recent years but the blue bloods showed their class here: The Léovilles and Langoa were serious, accomplished wines that will age well; Gruaud Larose was ripe and plush where Talbot and St. Pierre were found lacking. Gloria - considering its price point - was one of the best wines in the appellation.
Margaux which is normally a bit ‘all over the place’ was surprisingly consistent this year and there was a raft of exceptionally good wines for mid-term ageing. Château Margaux itself was a beauty but was followed closely by Palmer and Rauzan Segla. Kirwan, Brane Cantenac, Cantenac Brown, d’Issan, Lascombes, du Tertre and Siran were all very successful.
On the right bank Pomerol was one of the real successes, many great wines were made; La Conseillante, Clinet, Le Gay were all powerful, concentrated wines while La Pointe and Petit-Village had a lighter more floral nature but equally attractive.
St. Émilion had some what can only be called challenging wines and here Château selection is most important. The wines I have the greatest faith in after tasting are: Pavie-Macquin, Troplong Mondot, Canon-la-Gaffelière and for sheer approachability and hopefully value La Tour Figeac.
Other wines which showed particularly well at the tastings and are worth looking out for from mixed appellations were: Chasse-Spleen, Sociando Mallet, Cambon La Pelouse, Sénéjac, Bellegrave and Poujeaux.
We release our offers on Monday but here is a sneak preview, if you spot anything you want to reserve then contact me directly on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Having spent the last four days tasting through nearly all of Bordeaux’s main wines from the 2012 vintage - and a lot more besides - I could easily be forgiven for being a little tired! It is a physically tiring tasting with so many extremely young, tannic red wines however, my enthusiasm for Bordeaux has not tired in the slightest. Indeed seeing what this region is capable of doing in a tricky year like 2012 has only increased Bordeaux in my estimations and I am sure this is the case for many others.
From probably the 2005 vintage onwards there has been a marked improvement from top to bottom; better fruit ripeness, better balance and more purity in the wines from this vast region. However what has really impressed over the last few years is the quality of the more affordable wines.
I will follow up on the 2012 with an En Primeur report but in the meantime there is plenty of enjoyment still to be had with recent vintages. A good place to start is the 2008 vintage of which there are still some wines available. A personal favourite is the smart, modern (but elegant) Château Gironville which at €17.99 (was €19.99) is very hard to beat. There is not too much of this left so I advise anyone interested in experiencing one of the region’s over-performers to be quick and grab a bottle before it is gone for good.
Another rejuvenation to take note of is that of Château Fourcas Hosten (€24.95) the 2008 shows a marked change in form and style, richer, fuller and more complete than any earlier Fourcas. These improvement paid off with the 2008 earning the Château a four star Decanter rating and a ‘Buy of the Vintage’ Tag.
2009 is lauded one of regions ‘best ever’ vintages and for once this is true. This was a perfect year, the weather couldn’t have been better and the wines have a generosity and voluptuousness that is hugely enjoyable. Top Bordeaux house CVBG Dourthe has had huge success over the years with their Château Pey La Tour Reserve €17.99 but the 2009 is THE vintage to buy. Merlot rich and barrel matured this has the nose and palate of much more expensive wines from neighbouring communes – chiefly the St. Emilion group.
For a taste of St. Emilion itself the 2009 Vieux Château des Combes (€19.99) is a gorgeous, floral Bordeaux with very pure blackberry fruit and an accent of good French oak. There is a silky texture to this wine that belies its price-point and makes this a highly pleasurable wine experience. Decant, leave for half an hour and match up with roast loin of pork or slow-braised lamb.
So take confidence in Bordeaux’s recent vintages, there are lovely wines to be found from 2008, 2009 and 2010, meanwhile the 2011s that are just beginning to arrive and will reward cellaring for a couple more years.
Just remember to follow these two important rules in order to enjoy Bordeaux at its best: Bordeaux is designed for food and young Bordeaux likes to breathe – so decant.