Tony Eklof, originally from New England, has settled in Clonakilty after a career as a librarian at University College Dublin. His knowledge and passion for wine has been inspired by frequent visits to the wine growing regions of the continent, particularly Italy and France.
Otherwise know as Sauvignon Blanc. Oz Clarke says the grape, more than any other, is ‘leader of the love it or loathe it pack’. I have to confess that until recently I was pretty much a member of the latter group. This month I have tasted two very different versions of Sauvignon and have to say I will be more openminded about this varietal in the future. (See recommendations.)
Sauvignon originated in the Bordeaux region and is characterised by tangy, acidic, herbaceous, grassy, grapefruit, lime and gooseberry notes.
It is very ‘in your face’ compared to Chardonnay and is hardly ever oak-aged. It is combined with the more toned-down Semillon grape for most white wine produced in Bordeaux. It is fascinating to learn that back in the 1970s a majority of the vineyards in Bordeaux were for white wine cultivation whereas today the statistic is only around 12 per cent, as Bordeaux’s fine wine reputation becomes increasingly dependent on red wine. This is perhaps regrettable, as new methods and competition from abroad have meant that ‘Bordeaux has become one of France’s most exciting white wine areas.’
In Bordeaux, most of the fine Sauvignon-based dry white wine comes from the areas of Entre Deux Mer (between the Garonne and Dordogne Rivers), from Graves or from Pessac Leognan. Its finest sweet manifestation is Sauternes.
It was in the neighbouring Loire region that Sauvignon really came to prominence, due mainly to the fine benchmark whites from Sancerre.
It is said that Sancerre was very popular in the bars and bistros of Paris and other French cities and towns because it drinks very well without food.
Today’s popularity of the grape stems from a different country altogether. In the late 1980s and 1990s, there was something of a Sauvignon revival, sparked by New Zealand wines, which were crisp, bright, refreshing and relatively affordable. Today, most outlets carry numerous NZ whites at a wide price spectrum. Perhaps the most famous NZ Sauvignon is the pricey Cloudy Bay, although be careful, there are a number of imitations with similar brand names about!
Other regions producing good Sauvignon base whites include California, South Africa, Chile and Australia.
Finally and to quote my wine guru Oz Clarke again, ‘there’s no more thirst-quenching wine than a snappy, crunchy young Sauvignon Blanc. Let’s celebrate it.’ I’m not sure that it will ever replace Chardonnay in my white wine heart, but I am beginning to see new light.
Cooper’s Creek Marlborough New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, 2014. New into SuperValu Clonakilty — introductory price €12. Range also includes a white Albarino usually associated with Galicia in Spain, and a good looking Pinot Noir (red.)
Citadelle Ducypres Sauvignon 2014.Lidl, €8.99. Lovely crisp white from one of my favourite areas (Blaye, Cotes de Bordeaux) a region more commonly known for good value red Bordeaux.
(The Pouilly Fume on offer in Lidl is also great value Sauvignon.)
Both of these wines are best just lightly chilled.