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Are You Still Drinking Sauv Blanc?

By Alex Russell on July 31, 2013 in Food

Photo: Jennifer Neric

Photo: Jennifer Neric

Sauvignon Blanc: the grape that divides people. Over the last 8 to 10 years, Sauv Blanc has sold through the roof, particularly the Kiwi stuff. But is this still the case?

There are quite a few reasons for its popularity. Sauv Blanc generally does not come into contact with oak (or very little of it does anyway), which is a far cry from those huge oaky Chardonnays that were around in the ‘90s and drove a lot of people away. It’s a very easy wine style to recognise because it has a particularly obvious smell, especially the drops from Marlborough, famous for their passionfruit and pineapple odours and flavours. And it’s really approachable for those who don’t normally drink wine, without being super sweet, so it can be shared with others. Given our warm climate, it’s also really easy to drink at barbecues.

There was a trend a few years ago for those who had been drinking a lot of Sauv Blanc to try something a little different and many moved to Pinot Gris/Grigio instead. That, too, may be on the decline.

Many people in the wine trade don’t really have much respect for the style. When it comes to judging Sauvignon Blancs at wine shows, most roll their eyes, grit their teeth, get it over and done with and wait patiently for the brackets they enjoy more, such as Pinot Noir.

On the May 17, it was World Sauvignon Blanc Day. When asked what he would be doing on that day, one prominent wine critic said ‘hiding’.

Like it or loathe it, Sauvignon Blanc is an important grape for the industry, famous for being part of the white wines of Bordeaux, the minerally styles of Sancerre and the very interesting Pouilly-Fumé wines, along with the grassy, herbaceous styles coming out of the Adelaide Hills and the blends with Semillon – known as Classic Dry Whites – over in Margaret River. And, of course, the Kiwi stuff.

Why is it important? The obvious answer is that it has been a huge factor in terms of driving wine sales, but more importantly, it’s brought people into wine when they may otherwise have stuck with other beverages. It appears to have tapped into a new segment of the market.

So if you’re over Sauvignon Blanc and not a huge fan of Pinot Gris/Grigio, where do you go next?

Riesling has a bad name because a lot of people automatically think of the word ‘sweet’. To counter this, a lot of producers are starting to put a sweetness scale on the back label, or listing the grams of residual sugar. Talk to your local retailer about which of the Rieslings are drier, if that’s your thing.

Semillon is a really underrated grape and one that not a lot of people understand. Try most Hunter drops, from the likes of Tyrrell’s, Thomas Wines, Margan and many others. They are great value for money and I can’t recommend them enough.

There are also some quirky grape varieties coming through strongly. Have a look at Vermentino (Yalumba is doing some great stuff here), or try a Grüner Veltliner (Hahndorf Hill is awesome).

Finally, Viognier is a more subtle style, with hints of apricot on the palate. It’ll go with more foods than many of the others, including spicy food to an extent. Clonakilla does a very crisp style of Viognier (their Viognier Nouveau), which is certainly worth tracking down.

Let me know what you’re drinking via Twitter. Search for @ozwineguy.