Time to get ‘sauv-y’!
Love it or hate it, there’s no denying that the ‘sauv-alanche’ continues to gain momentum in both the UK on and off trade. No other variety has such global clout… with Marlborough leading the pack in defining the style and regional branding. A considerable phenomenon given that New Zealand produces less than 1% of the worlds wine yet 17% of Sauvignon Blanc originates from New Zealand (second only to France). Often decried by trade as being ‘generic’ and ‘formulaic’, it is a favourite go-to for wine drinkers and consumers who enjoy its accessibility and pure enjoyment. However, the number of countries (France, Chile, South Africa and New Zealand to name a few), increasing diversity of styles on offer and experimentation by winemakers makes this grape much more interesting than may first appear.
We asked several team members about their thoughts on Sauvignon Blanc and their top picks from the Berkmann portfolio to celebrate International Sauvignon Blanc day this Friday 4th May.
Clive Witcomb, Midlands Account Manager: “When assembling a wine list, Sauvignon Blanc has long been one of the first names on the team sheet, often occupying, in its various guises, several places in the starting line-up. But is it beginning to become a victim of its own success, has Sauvignon sleepiness begun to set in amongst the wine consuming masses? Not that long ago, you would oft hear the question – “shall we have red or Pinot Grigio?” – as if no other white wine even existed. Pinot Grigio predictability was inevitable. So have we now reached that tipping point with Sauvignon Blanc? Thankfully, the answer is a firm no. There is too much about this noble grape to fall into that scenario. It remains an exciting, lively, exuberant wine, and with its ability to offer variety across the several continents it calls home, its versatility guarantees its continued ascendancy.
That said, in recent times there has been a remarkable and undeniable increase in consumer knowledge and awareness of grape varieties, and no member of the team should become complacent about its position. With this awareness comes the confidence and willingness to experiment and think outside the box – so Fiano, Picpoul de Pinet and Grüner Veltliner are examples of wines sitting on the substitutes’ bench awaiting their opportunity to play alongside Sauvignon and make an impression. Indeed, they already have, and rightly so.”
Clive’s top picks: Sancerre La Croix Du Roy, Lucien Crochet, Loire Valley (136517-16) and Coopers Creek Select Vineyards “Dillons Point,” Marlborough (821608-16).
Gerard Barnes, Wine Buyer: “South Africa’s Western Cape should be too hot to produce world class Sauvignon Blanc, but enterprising winemakers have sought out the coolest sites. High altitudes or close to the sea where the freezing waters of the Benguela current result in afternoon mists which cool many west coast vineyards are ideal. Neil Ellis, a pioneer of modern South African winemaking has been growing Sauvignon Blanc in the Darling hills some 50 miles north of Capetown for more than twenty years. His Groenekloof Sauvignon Blanc ( from a farm named after the nature reserve just south of the small town of Darling ) combines flavours and aromas of gooseberry and passion fruit with floral and herbal notes and delicious, cool mineral concentration. Powerful yet elegant, this is the new worlds answer to Sancerre.”
Gerard’s top pick: Not surprisingly, Neil Ellis Groenekloof Sauvignon Blanc (856010-17)
Alex McNair, Veraison Educator: “More often than not, reading ‘Sauvignon Blanc’ on a wine list offers the consumer something familiar and reliable; a dry wine with mouth-watering acidity and strong varietal character. However, let’s not forget that in a small corner of Bordeaux, Sauvignon Blanc is responsible for making up the blend of one of the world’s most-revered dessert wines, Sauternes.
Here, along with Sémillon and Muscadelle, Sauvignon Blanc is affected by the fungus Botrytis cinerea leading to a phenomenon known as ‘noble rot’. The fungus simultaneously alters the aroma profile of infected grapes whilst also causing it to lose water. The result is an explosion of complex flavour and sweetness, balanced by Sauvignon Blanc’s trademark acidity. Far from the pungent passion fruit and green pepper aromas found in the vineyards of Marlborough, Sauternes offers up apricot, mango, citrus, honey, rye bread and marmalade.”
Alex’s top pick: Château Suduiraut Sauternes (403055-10)
Luigi Buonanno, Key London Account Manager: “Sauvignon Blanc is still a key grape variety in the UK market and consumers are still driven by the thirst of this aromatic grape. A few years ago we thought that the trend wasn’t going to last long but actually the boom of New Zealand Sauvignon has opened doors to other countries producing this grape variety. People are now more keen to drink fresh and juicy white wines and this has helped similar grape varieties from other parts of the world to enter the market.”
Luigi’s top pick: Finca Perdriel Sauvignon Blanc (701010-17). As Luigi says, “Very expressive, elegant and precise version from a country that is not yet very well known for this very successful grape variety.”
Alex Canneti, Director of Off Trade Sales: “My happiest wine memories are wandering around Sancerre and Leyda in Chile. What they both have in common is Sauvignon and the effect of chalky rolling hills on what can sometimes be considered a nice but not great wine. Here terroir makes an impact perhaps more than any other grape variety. Both of these areas produce wines with complexity and balance. These wines can age well when treated with love as they are in Sancerre and Leyda, with 5-8 years as an ideal. A superior country wine yes, but really exciting and full of life in the right place!”
Alex’s top pick: Mahi Boundary Farm Sauvignon Blanc (821530-15)