Sauvignon Blanc Day
The first Friday in May is Sauvignon Blanc Day. Started by the New Zealand Wines Group, this day sets out to celebrate this distinctive grape variety, and if you want to join in, the good news is that the supermarket shelves have plentiful supplies at pocket-friendly prices. Watch my video, or read on below...
The grape is French in origin, and France is still the biggest producer of sauvignon blanc wines. It grows well in the Loire Valley, and around Bordeaux, but it is arguably the New Zealand wine industry that has put the grape on the world stage. As their flagship varietal, sauvignon blanc is grown in Marlborough, Nelson and Hawkes Bay.
However, the popularity of the grape has spread, and you'll now find sauvignon blanc from Romania, South Africa, California, Chile, Moldova and Italy to name just a few of the countries that have picked up on its charms.
Later in 2020, I'll be running a "Sauvignon Blanc from around the world" tasting in Swindon (postponed from May, due to the ongoing Covid-19 situation) but for now, here's a pick of three from France, New Zealand and Chile.
Wine 1 - Les Ruettes - Sancerre - 2018, Marks & Spencer, £15 (France)
I should have been cycling along the Loire Valley in May, stopping at vineyards and cafes to sample a range of amazing wines. Sadly due to lockdown, I'm in Swindon instead, so I've gone a little pricier in my wine choices than I sometimes do as consolation! If you imagine the Loire Valley is like shopping on 5th Avenue in New York, then the appellations of Sancerre (and Pouilly Fumé on the opposite bank of the river) are the equivalent of Tiffanys. We're talking prestigious wines, from vineyards of limestone and flint in a cool continental climate that keeps the grapes fresh and crisp, with high acidity.
Sancerre sauvignon blanc wines have refreshing flavours including lemon, lime, elderflower and some grassy notes. Some people can also detect flint or minerality in some bottles.
This 2018 wine from M&S has razor sharp acidity with intense green fruit flavours. It is elegant, fruit driven and a treat.
Wine 2 - Saint Clair's Reverend Sloane, 2019, Sainsburys, £14 (New Zealand)
You won't be stuck finding New Zealand sauvignon blanc in the supermarkets in the UK, and a vast majority of them come from the dry and sunny area of Marlborough.
Saint Clair is one of Marlborough's largest family-owned and operated wineries. They started out in 1978 growing grapes for others (making them one of the oldest family run growers in New Zealand) and decided to set out on their own in 1994. Their commitment to viticulture has led to a number of award winning wines and a brand that is growing throughout the world. Their motto is "a love of wine, not money", and they invest in small presses and tanks to keep vineyard batches seperate.
This wine is named after Reverend John Sloane who blessed the land that the 1st vines were planted on in Blenheim in 1974.
This mouth-watering Sauvignon has aromas of passion fruit, blackcurrant leaf and gooseberry and a blast of ripe gooseberry and lime on the palate. The acidity is crisp but balanced, making it a perfect match with fresh salads, seafood and vegetarian dishes.
Wine 3 - Zarper Gran Reserva 2018, Morrisons (Chile), £8.25
The previous two wines are probably pushing the budget, but don't worry, you can find plenty of French and New Zealand sauvignon blancs in the sub £10 region. My next example, from Chile, is a great example of a gluggable and respected wine, which still packs a citrus and tangy punch.
The words Gran Reserva on the label may be misleading. Unlike in some Old World countries, Gran Reserva in Chile is no indication of ageing or quality. It simply means there is a requirement to have a minimum alcohol content above 12.5%.
Zarper is the brand name of this wine made by Viña Indomita, a sauvignon blanc that does particularly well in the cooler climate of Casablanca Valley. The area is influenced by the cooling morning fogs and afternoon winds that blow off the Pacific Ocean.
This reasonably priced wine is typical of the Chilean style, with generous tropical fruit and a relatively soft character. I found this one to be much more vegetal on the nose - verging on the cat pee scents that can be associated with Sauvignon Blanc, but pleasant on the palate with plenty of passion fruit, pineapple, citrus, with those subtle grassy notes coming through. An approachable and easy to drink wine from Morrisons.