A glass of pungent, uncomplicated, brisk, Marlborough sauvignon is often just the thing I’m after at the end of a busy day; yet disowning the grape is almost a rite of passage for the self-confessed ‘wine aficionado’.
So let’s reclaim this once-heralded variety in all its guises, starting in Marlborough, in the north-east of New Zealand’s South Island, where long, sunny days combined with cool nights give gooseberry and grapefruit-packed pungency alongside great acidity. Stainless steel is widely used to preserve freshness and Grove Mill’s 2020 is a great starting point. For a few pennies more, The Society’s Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2020 gives added refinement, and don’t miss local legends Dog Point for their fuller, peachier style. Across Mount Richmond Forest Park in Nelson, overlooking Tasman Bay, Neudorf’s Tiritiri 2019 uses wild yeasts and a little oak for a broader, juicier sauvignon with a saline kick.
For fresh, herbaceous sauvignon, Chile is the place to be and The Society’s Chilean Limarí Sauvignon 2020 with its grassy, bell-pepper notes make it ideal late summer sipping with salads and hard cheeses. Australia’s cooler Adelaide Hills produce nicely rounded sauvignon with orchard-fruit rather than herbaceous character, try Bleasdale Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2021.
South African sauvignon balances the warmer, more tropical fruits of the southern hemisphere with the elegant, mineral undertones of the northern. For crystalline fruit, Dirt Track’s 2021 Sauvignon from the Western Cape has character aplenty for the price, whilst Quando from the warm, inland region of Robertson makes use of the diurnal temperature variation and gravelly soils to produce a soft yet mineral expression of sauvignon blanc. Showcasing the pinnacle of Cape quality, Tokara’s 2020 Reserve Collection from Elgin has a cool-climate, taut, gooseberry and nettle character combined with concentration and richness.
For sauvignon in its purest form, head for France and the Loire Valley. Touraine is full of sauvignon bargains, witness the fruit-forward style of Domaine de la Renaudie 2020. Dig deeper and you’ll find Cheverny, a small satellite region producing razor-sharp, vivid sauvignon which, unusually, includes a smidge of chardonnay – try Cheverny Réserve 'Enclos du Petit Chien', Alpha Loire Domaines 2019.
As the Loire snakes its way into central France it dives south, passing Coteaux du Giennois, Sancerre and Pouilly-sur-Loire; continental regions tempered by the river, whose complex, concentrated wines show outstanding freshness. The Giennois is an affordable first step and Domaine de Villargeau 2020 is a cracker. Further upstream, Pouilly-Fumé, as the name suggests, yields more fragrant, aromatic wines, often with the smoky, gun-flint and blackberry-leaf aroma displayed in The Society’s Exhibition Pouilly-Fumé 2018. In Sancerre you’ll find the Loire’s most elegant, complex sauvignon, marrying weight of fruit with steely character and, often, longevity. Our 2020 Exhibition example is right on the money. On the banks of the Cher, a tributary of the Loire, attractively priced Reuilly offers a similar style to both Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé. Try Reuilly ‘Les Fossiles’, Domaine de Reuilly 2020.
Finally, Bordeaux, where sauvignon is joined by both semillon and, often, oak, offers France’s fullest, richest and most opulent expressions of these two great grapes. Unoaked, The Society’s Bordeaux Sauvignon 2020 is the place to start. Château Thieuley’s Bordeaux Blanc 2019, with a touch of barrel, gives riper, more tropical fruit with hints of cedar and nutmeg. The Dubourdieus at Doisy-Daëne are best known for their sweet wines, but their Bordeaux Sec 2019 is one of the finest expressions of this classic style – rich, passionfruit-filled, spicy, 100% sauvignon blanc enveloped in creamy richness from barrel fermentation. Truly outstanding.
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