Drinks: Wines

Sauvignon Blanc
Some good-value wines but the relatively low ratio of entries to medals suggests a lot of bandwagon-jumping, too

It’s big and getting bigger. For the last couple of years, Sauvignon Blanc has been the biggest New World white category, reflecting the trend in the marketplace. And although a surprise resurgence by Chardonnay this year saw Sauvignon narrowly squeezed back into second place, entries were still up 25% on last year.

The grape’s benefits are obvious: none of that troublesome ageing nonsense, just grow
it, vinify it and whack it into the market. As a result, this section was liberally smothered with fresh, young wines at decent prices. There are few other SWA categories where 80%
of the medal-winning wines are under a tenner.

And yet our tasters expected rather better. For starters, the actual hit rate of submissions to medals was not high. True, a fair few of the Kiwis chose to enter their Savs into the Varietal Classic section of the competition but, still, we would have expected more than three Golds out of such a vast entry.

With the notable exception of Four Sisters (Australia) and Doña Paula (Argentina), this was essentially a three-way fight between Chile, New Zealand and South Africa, with each country inhabiting a different price band. Chile performed strongly from £5 to £8, South Africa £8–9, while New Zealand only really kicked in after the £10 mark.

Chile’s USP was its ability to make wines that were distinctively varietal but in a less full-on style than ‘traditional’ Kiwi Sav. ‘The better examples were clean and fresh, with a purity of fruit; recognisable varietal aromatics, yet showing some restraint,’ said Royal Thames Yacht Club’s Nigel Lister. The country’s other big advantage – value for money – is also, paradoxically, what is holding it back. ‘The price point for Chilean Sauvignon is very important because beyond £8–9 it doesn’t sell,’ said Olivier Gasselin, Marc Restaurants
– an analysis that will probably have them reaching for the Kleenex in Santiago.

It was heartening to see a growing entry from genuine cool-climate valleys like Leyda. This said, the region’s performance suggests a little more vine age and a little more understanding might be necessary before it pulls in a hatful of Golds.

Good to see the growing influence of South Africa’s cooler areas, too: Constantia
and Elim are gaining (or have always had) quite a reputation for Sauvignon, while
Waterkloof’s estate is about as chilly as it gets in Stellenbosch.

Of all the Sauvignons, however, it was those from New Zealand that excited the tasters the most. ‘There was a variety and difference in style, which is nice because there’s a lot
of generalisation about the Kiwi style,’ said Galvin La Chapelle’s Andrea Briccarello.

It’s a point that the Kiwis have been trying to make for a few years now – talking about ‘Kiwi Sauvignon’ is as unfair as talking about ‘French Sauvignon’. ‘There was a real diversity of style,’ said Team Leader Peter McCombie MW, who swore that his judgment was unimpaired by his being a New Zealander himself. ‘If you can get Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé on the same list, then you can do two styles of Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc.’

“The Leyda wines were not what I expected at all – a few years ago you wouldn’t have got this good a quality level in this category. ”  Philippe Loiseau, Hakkasan


Errazuriz 1870 Sauvignon Blanc 2010, Casablanca Valley, Chile
£5.18 @ Hatch Mansfield
SWA 2011 Gold List More good value from Chile, Nigel Lister found cut grass on its summery nose, gentle fruit and lychee on the mid-palate, and a zesty lime-fruit finish. ‘Nettles, minerals and a zippy green acidity,’ said Tom Forrest. ‘Very pleasant on the palate,’ concluded Angus Macnab, wine consultant.

Echeverria Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2010, Curico Valley, Chile
£5.61 @ Hallgarten Druitt
SWA 2011 Gold List Light and refreshing, with great citrus and gooseberry flavours, and a clean, crisp finish. ‘Grassy, zippy aromas,’ said Tom Forrest. ‘Very elegant,’ said Angus Macnab, adding, ‘some mineral notes, green pepper, citrus and asparagus notes, this has good acidity and length’.

Avery Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2010, Marlborough, New Zealand
£10.08 @ Louis Latour Agencies
  More Loire-style than punchy Kiwi Sauvignon, this shows a good balance of restrained citrus fruit and acidity. The nose is grassy and lemon zest-like while the palate broadens to include passion fruit and lime as well as green apple. ‘Subtle and elegant,’ said Peter McCombie MW, while Nick Chiu, Ashdown Park Hotel, simply said ‘refreshing’.


Four Sisters Sauvignon Blanc 2010, Central Victoria, Australia
£5.75 @ Ehrmanns
Plenty of flavours to play with here in this riper style of Sauvignon, as the apricots, mangos and nectarines rub alongside floral hints and honey on an off-dry palate. ‘Persistent fruit and good length,’ said Kelvin McCabe, Roka.

Veramonte Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2010, Casablanca Valley, Chile
£6.63 @ Matthew Clark/Wine Studio/Wine Studio Agency
Gentle spring flowers on the nose alongside a mélange of citrusy and tropical fruit and some
green herbs. ‘With its peachy finish, this is good value for money,’ said Olivier Gasselin.

Groot Constantia Sauvignon Blanc 2010, Constantia, South Africa
£8.12 @ Hallgarten Druitt
A fine complexity of aromas, with white blossom alongside capsicum and other green aromas, before a well-integrated, well-balanced palate with fine texture, zesty flavours of Granny Smith apples, and a long, refreshing finish. Lime leaf and lime fruit with unripe passion fruit,’ said Angela Reddin. ‘Interesting.’

Carmen Sauvignon Blanc Gran Reserva 2010, Leyda Valley, Chile
£8.19 @ Hallgarten Druitt
A well-textured wine, which offers fresh minerality on the nose alongside warm citrus, toast and smoke, while zesty bitter lemons and minerals dominate the relatively restrained palate. Luis Felipe Edwards Sauvignon Blanc Family Selection 2010,

Leyda Valley, Chile
£8.50 @ D&D Wines International
‘Brisk and vivid’, said Natasha Hughes. With its guava mixed with gooseberry, nettles and herbal aromas, the palate is more zesty and citrus-inspired with a long, balanced, fresh finish.

Saint Clair Pioneer Block 18 Snap Block Sauvignon Blanc 2010, Marlborough, New Zealand
£10.46 @ Hallgarten Druitt
With tropical fruit on nose and palate alongside a grassy, almost vegetal undercurrent, this has good intensity, high acidity and is well balanced. ‘Decent length, ticks all the boxes,’ said Igor Sotric, China Tang.


Tierra Sauvignon Blanc 2010, Maule Valley, Chile
£5.05 @ Matthew Clark
Lively, bright and fruity, this is zesty and precise with a long finish. ‘Crisp and fresh. Good value,’ said Nigel Lister.

Dona Paula Sauvignon Blanc 2010, Mendoza, Argentina
£5.64 @ Hallgarten Druitt
An easy-drinking dry number, with lemony, citrusy, grassy aromas, a well-textured palate with fresh, tropical fruits and a long finish.

Terra Mater Vineyard Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2010, Maipo Valley, Chile
£5.81 @ Cockburn & Campbell
Quite restrained on the nose, this is elegant with some minerals on the palate, a hint of pepper, ripe stone fruit and a good, fresh finish.

Lapostolle Casa Sauvignon Blanc 2010, Rapel Valley, Chile
£5.88 @ Berkmann Wine Cellars
Light savoury notes amplify the aromas of tangy, green fruit, while the richer palate has good medium body and crunchy acidity.

Vidal Sauvignon Blanc 2010, Marlborough, New Zealand
£6.79 @ Hatch Mansfield
With textbook Marlborough Sauvignon flavours – including ‘Awatere tomato stalk’, according to Peter McCombie MW – this is straightforward but offers plenty of ripeness and intensity for the money.

Waterkloof Circumstance Sauvignon Blanc 2010, Stellenbosch, South Africa
£7.59 @ Boutinot
Don’t be put off by the subdued nose, there’s more richness and depth on the palate, with
tart tropical fruits alongside a refreshing grapefruity acidity and a long finish.

Flagstone Free Run Sauvignon Blanc 2009, Elim, South Africa
£8.55 @ constellation wines [accolade Wines]
Minerals and green notes mingle on the nose, with an elegant richness to the fore on the palate. Elegant lemon zest flavours result in a good, fresh clean finish.

Drylands Sauvignon Blanc 2010, Marlborough, New Zealand
£9.53 @ constellation wines [accolade Wines]
Slightly off-dry, with intense guava and blackcurrant leaf followed by green tea and asparagus on this fresh, well-balanced wine. ‘Crisp and zingy,’ said Andrea Bricarello.

Clos Henri Sauvignon Blanc 2009, Marlborough, New Zealand
£13.80 @ Les Caves de Pyrene
With a smoky minerality, this impressed with its subtlety, although the acidity was noted as quite high. Good texture on the palate with some length and intensity.

“Chilean Sauvignon isn’t a must-have like New Zealand Sauvignon but people do recognise the country as being good value for money. ”  Angus Macnab, wine consultant

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