It’s a hot summer in Chile and at times like this Sauvignon Blanc has a way of naturally coming to mind. Being this our first 2007 newsletter, it might not be a bad time to do a variety profile, considering that Sauvignon Blanc gave Cono Sur some of the greatest awards and press of 2006, and reviews just keep rolling in.
Sauvignon Blanc can be credited as the low-profile white variety per excellence. Faithful followers around the world may never understand why this is so, but while other white varieties tend to get a name for their popularity (Chardonnay) or for an exotic flair (Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Viognier), Sauvignon Blanc may seem to be a more stay-on-the-sidelines kind of wine, or at least that has been the case historically, but as new origins, winemaking styles and even bottle-sealing technology are all leaving a positive imprint on the variety’s name, Sauvignon Blanc is slowly but surely going mainstream. If you catch the wave now, you are still in time to be a trendsetter.
As is to be expected, Sauvignon Blanc originated in Bordeaux and from there emigrated to other French, Old World and finally New World origins. The wine managed to remain mostly anonymous until the 1990s, when the New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc boom began to make more and more noise. What happened is that Sauvignon Blanc took particularly well to the coolness and maritime character of Kiwi lands and responded by providing consistent wines, a trait that had been quite elusive so far. Of course word was swift to spread and most New World origins established around that time or later, as is certainly the case with Chile, followed in New Zealand’s sea-bound example.
At the vineyard
While still hanging, Sauvignon Blanc is a green-skinned grape. Vineyard management mostly aims at restricting growth because Sauvignon vines are naturally-born strivers; if left unleashed, their vigour will tend to yield too much fruit instead of the desirable controlled productions of concentrated grapes.
In the winery
Currently most worldwide producers ferment and briefly age their Sauvignon Blanc wines in stainless steel, to accentuate the wine’s crisp, zesty and bracing qualities. In its contemporary interpretation, common wine sense has established that Sauvignon’s beauty and grace reside in its fruit character, and winemakers have learnt to respect that and approach winemaking with a restrained attitude, so as not to overcook the wine.
Unoaked, New World styled Sauvignon Blanc wines are dry, crisp, young and refreshing whites. This was one of the first varieties to massively turn to screw caps, mostly guided by New Zealand’s ingenuity and leadership, and to benefit from the enhanced sealing capacities of the new closure, which has guaranteed that from winery to glass, Sauvignon will preserve its determining features: youth, freshness, bracing acidity and zesty fruit base.
Aromatically, these wines range from a greener side, which tends to dominate when grown in climates that are too cold or shady (bell-pepper, grass), to a more fruit-forward personality, achieved in terroirs that are more sun-filled, with notes such as melon, gooseberry and passion fruit.
At the table
Sauvignon Blanc should be enjoyed chilled. Although it is the perfect aperitif wine, one of its greatest assets is its food-friendly nature, it even pairs fantastically well with sushi, a particularly hard match. And that’s not all, tough ingredients such as tomatoes, smoked foods, bell peppers, cilantro and garlic, that would pose an unbeatable challenge for Chardonnay or other whites, are a doable task for a dry, self-assured Sauvignon. And that without mentioning the easier gigs: all things seafood, salads, delicate flavoured vegetarian dishes and white meats. Sauvignon’s secret weapon is its sharp, penetrating acidity, which can cut through spicy or overpowering flavours without losing the wine’s fruit; it also has a palate-cleansing effect.
Following is a list of some of Cono Sur Sauvignon Banc wines and their latest achievements:
20 Barrels Limited Edition Sauvignon Blanc 2005
International Sauvignon Blanc Over £10 Trophy – Decanter World Wine Awards 2006 (UK)
93 points / Wine & Spirits February 2007 Magazine (US)
“From El Centinela, one of the coolest vineyard sites in the Casablanca Valley, this seems to transform fresh ocean breezes into green apple, grapefruit and mineral flavors. A great match for sea bass sashimi.”
Visión Sauvignon Blanc 2005
91 points and Exceptional Value / Wine & Spirits February 2007 Magazine (US)
“As bracing as fresh, cold lemonade with mint, this offers a bright, pure expression of sauvignon grown in the hills of Casablanca. It’s ready to match a plate of Pacific oysters.”
Cono Sur Sauvignon Blanc 2006
Grand Champion / Old Ebbitt Grill International Wines for Oysters Competition (US)
Wine of the Week / Paul Lukacz, Washington Times (US). December 2006
“It tastes of grapefruit and lemon, with a faintly herbal or grassy undertone, and has a smooth rather than overly acidic texture. It also happens to be value-priced. If you’re an oyster lover, this is a wine well worth buying by the case.”