Splash out on a superior sauvignon blanc

In all its different disguises, sauvignon blanc is still satisfying, interesting and evolving. Picture: Shutterstock
In all its different disguises, sauvignon blanc is still satisfying, interesting and evolving. Picture: Shutterstock

So you thought drinking sauvignon blanc was a little off trend, did you? Well, you are not alone. But trends come and go in the world of wine, and sauvignon blanc, in all its glory, still manages to captivate and satisfy a vast number of thirsty wine lovers.

Let's face it. Since the 1990s when our friends across the "dutch" in New Zealand put this usually subtle variety on the map - literally, its success story continued, despite a few wrinkled noses when it is mentioned.

The trick to enjoying this noble and ancient variety is to experiment with styles from around Australia and the rest of the world. When you revel in the complexity and freshness of the grape and see how it expresses itself in every corner of the globe, then you truly become a sauvignon blanc follower.

My favorite thing about wine is that the same grape variety can produce dramatically different wines depending on where it's grown, hence sauvignon blanc is still popular due to its versatility and adaptability.

Grown all over the world, from the Loire Valley and Bordeaux, France; to Marlborough, New Zealand; Casablanca, Chile; Stellenbosch; South Africa; and Napa Valley, California. It's a grape that can grow in a range of climates to produce food-friendly wines at many price points. In Australia, we have approximately 8000 hectares of sauvignon blanc under vine, so our winemakers must know their audience.

Many winemakers like to barrel-age their sauvignon blanc and create a wine that is softer and creamier on the palate. Picture: Shutterstock

Many winemakers like to barrel-age their sauvignon blanc and create a wine that is softer and creamier on the palate. Picture: Shutterstock

The sauvignon blanc taste is one of the most identifiable in the world of white wines for a few reasons. Firstly, it always has a crisp, high acidity. Secondly, it has a chemical compound called pyrazine present as a flavour compound, which gives grassy, herbal or bell pepper characteristics to the eventual wine.

When grown in cooler climates or picked early, the herbaceous green character is most prominent. In warmer climates or when the grapes are allowed to hang longer on the vine, the pyrazine character diminishes in favour of riper fruit flavors ranging from grapefruit, to passion fruit and guava.

As with every grape type, the eventual flavour and style of the wine depends on a number of influences. Terroir (soil and everything else around the vineyards), the root stock that was originally planted, the weather, altitude, viticultural practices and winemaking skills all contribute to the final product.

For many, sauvignon blanc is the high acid, passion fruit and herbaceous style that emanates from Marlborough. It is an aromatic wine that is high in acidity and best drunk young while its flavours are fresh and fruity with flavours of passion fruit, elderflower, and green pepper, along with herby, grassy notes when grown in cool to moderate climates. In warmer climates it can take on tropical fruit characters and it won't be as refreshing because it will lack the crispness that the high acidity lends to the wine.

Most sauvignon blanc is aged in stainless steel and bottled while fresh and youthful. However, for the finest wines of Pessac-Léognan in Bordeaux, sauvignon blanc is blended with other white grapes and fermented and aged in oak it comes as a big surprise that it can be more full-bodied and less acidic and very food-friendly.

Barrel-fermented sauvignons are creeping up in popularity across Australia and some great examples are being made in the Southern Highlands, Canberra, Mudgee, Orange and Adelaide Hills. All cool climate regions, so keep an eye out for these and experiment when you get the chance.

Like all white wines, sauvignon blanc should be served chilled. If the wine is too warm, the alcohol will be more noticeable while flavours and acidity will taste dull. Too cold, and the aromas and flavours are muted. The best temperature range is 15-12C, which can be achieved by two hours in the refrigerator or 30-40 minutes in an ice-water bath.

Food for thought

Think grilled asparagus with parsley, sautéed green beans and mint, and big salads topped in basil. For protein, fish, chicken and pork, especially with citrus sauces, choose a riper, higher alcohol sauvignon blanc like those from Margaret River, that can handle heavier sauces and grilled white meats. The key is to match the wine's weight and flavour intensity with the weight and flavour intensity of the food.

This story Why we all still love a 'sav blanc' first appeared on The Canberra Times.