Archive for the ‘Sauvignon Blanc’ Category

Sauvignon blanc vines from Marlborough, New Zealand.

Sauvignon blanc vines from Marlborough, New Zealand.

 

Few words in the UK wine market provoke a reaction as polarising as “Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc”.

For a host of consumers those heady aromas of passion fruit, gooseberry and the entire spectrum of fruit salad ingredients in between act like catnip. Among others, however, including many in the trade itself, it is possible to detect a degree of fatigue with New Zealand’s hugely successful flagship style.

This latter camp saw its numbers swell when the bumper 2008 vintage saw shelves flooded with discounted stock. On top of oversupply came the observation from several corners that quality was slipping as fast as the prices. Just as this golden goose was starting to look decidedly wobbly on its feet, New Zealand’s producers regrouped, rallied and within just a few years have taken major strides towards revitalising the Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc landscape.

At a mainstream level, the classic style is clearly going stronger than ever – just visit a UK supermarket and compare the shelf space dedicated to this single combination of variety and region with the area allocated to other entire countries. Against this backdrop of stability, however, many Marlborough producers have now identified an opportunity – a need even – to shake up the stereotype and show what else they can do.
Read on …

Also read:

Durbanville Hills cellar 01

 

 

From its first vintage 15 years ago, Durbanville Hills Wines, which is located on the Tygerberg Hills and overlooks Table Mountain and Table Bay, has produced some of the best received super premium wines in the country.

Cellar master Martin Moore, who was appointed in 1998 when the cellar was still in the early stages of construction, reminisces fondly of the first vintage and the memorable wines produced in 1999.

“When the first grapes were delivered to the presses, work had not even started on that part of the building which today houses the maturation cellar, restaurant and wine-tasting area.

“But regardless of the challenges both the Luipaardsberg Merlot and the Biesjes Craal Sauvignon blanc from our first vintage received double gold at Veritas while the Durbanville Hills Chardonnay was awarded gold. During that first vintage just over 3 000 tons of grapes were pressed. Within a few short years production moved up to reach the cellar’s full capacity of 8 000 tons,” says Moore.

“Over the years we have extended our product range to showcase the diverse terroir of the area. During the 15 years we have created a number of what I believe are quite remarkable wines; wines which in my view truly capture the unique flavour spectrum found on our valley slopes.”

Durbanville Hills has over the years become particularly known for its top-quality Sauvignon blanc, due also to the cool-climate location of its production units which all enjoy ideal conditions for growing this cultivar.

“During the summer months and then mostly in the late afternoon, the southeaster , blows off False Bay over the Cape Flats, bringing with it cool, moist air. The wind is surprisingly cold as it comes sweeping over the contours of the hills, cooling down the vineyards even on the hottest day. And when the southeaster is not blowing, a westerly wind coming off the cold Atlantic produces the same results,” says Moore.

Sauvignon blanc is represented across the cellar’s three wine ranges. All of them regularly receive awards at national and international competitions. Although the wines can be enjoyed immediately, the winery’s Sauvignon blancs are known for their longevity, with the Biesjes Craal in particular lasting for up to ten years.

The wines are available from the cellar and leading liquor outlets and retail for about R52 in the case of the 2012 Durbanville Hills Sauvignon Blanc and R85 for the 2012 Rhinofields Sauvignon Blanc while you should expect to pay about R115 for the 2012 Biesjes Craal Sauvignon Blanc.

 

Also read:

Fake it like a pro ...

Fake it like a pro …

 

You’re sophisticated enough to know that a proper bottle of vino is the calling card du jour, but a bit of a novice when it comes to picking out something worthy. And should you actually choose something notable, will you be up to the challenge of carrying on an intelligent conversation about it?

We asked Michael Fagan, wine ‘Matchmaker’ with one of the world’s largest wine purchasers, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO), for a few tips to help us fake it like a pro.

How to choose a good wine

“We’re easily influenced as consumers by media, fashion, and friends, so when it comes to wine many of us are insecure and don’t know if we can trust our own taste. We don’t know that we know enough about wine to be right. So many consumers will buy a label, what their friends buy, or what they read in an advertisement.

The best way to learn about wine is to taste it. When you’re tasting the wines, don’t worry too much about where it comes from, think about its characteristics and whether you like it or not. The more you familiarize yourself with different wines, the easier it is to understand where your preferences lie.”

Wines are made of fermented grape juice, and each variety of grapes has unique characteristics determined by geographical region, grower, growing conditions and time of picking. Icewine, for example, is extremely sweet because it is picked very late in the season when the grapes are frozen on the vines. The water in the grapes has frozen solid, which allows the grower to squeeze the sweetest, most concentrated liquid from the frozen grapes. Common red wine varieties are Gamay Noir, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. White wines include Chardonnay, Riesling, and Sauvignon Blanc.

Price versus Quality

The price of a wine is determined by the origin of the grapes. Generally speaking, wines labelled as Table wines can be made from grapes grown from anywhere within a large region such as France, whereas the grapes for a more expensive wine, come from a smaller sub region or village, or even one single vineyard. Luxury wines can be upwards of hundreds to thousands of dollars. One of the most expensive wines in the world is the 1787 Chateau Lafitte, valued at $160,000 and comes from the cellar of former US President Thomas Jefferson.

The country of origin can also influence price, Fagan explains.

 

Read on …

After 6 weeks of working 15 hour days, the wine harvest in the Durbanville area is in final hour!

Here is a view photographs snapped on my iphone 5:

20130323-084256.jpg

20130323-084333.jpg

20130323-084359.jpg

20130323-084446.jpg

20130323-084511.jpg

20130323-084556.jpg

20130323-084630.jpg

 

There are easier ways to get to Durbanville Hills Winery than aboard a snorkel-equipped Land Rover, but I don’t think there’s a better way to go.

They brought out the 4×4 vehicles (snorkel-equipped — who knew? — so the engines can breathe even in deep water crossings) so that we could experience and appreciate the hills, the vineyards and the rugged terrain even before we came to the winery itself and the braai lunch that was planned for us there.

 

Surrounding vineyards.

 

My visit to Durbanville Hills Winery started as adventure and became a learning experience about the diverse nature of wine in South Africa. Now it is also Exhibit A in the case against the One Big Tank myth that I wrote about last week.

 

Entrance to Durbanville Hills Cellar at night.

Entrance to Durbanville Hills Cellar at night.

 

The Big Tank theory is that giant wine and drinks companies with dozens of brands in their portfolios offer consumers the illusion of choice, not real choice. It’s as if all the different wines came out of one big tank.  Although there is a grain of truth in this idea, I think it is fundamentally bogus and Durbanville Hills is a case in point.

From Oom Tas to Nederberg Noble

Durbanville Hills Winery is part of the Distell drinks empire. As I wrote last week, Distell is South Africa’s largest wine and spirits producer and is a global power in several beverage categories. They superficially fit the Big Tank stereotype, but within their range of brands you will find choices over a wide range starting with very basic wines such as Oom Tas (described as “an inexpensive, dry, golden, unsophisticated wine of constantly good quality and taste”) and Kellerprinz (” an unpretentious, fun wine, its quality is nevertheless good and consistent, offering value for money”) and moving on up the ladder to the rather special Nederberg Noble Late Harvest wine I wrote about last year.
Read on …

 

Also read:

article-kiwi-wine-420x0

 

 

New research “empowers” sauvignon blanc producers.

It’s hard to believe that New Zealand sauvignon blanc didn’t exist before 1973. Local winemakers were more interested in turning out bulk-produced Müller-Thurgau. How times change.

Today, sauvignon blanc is one of the country’s major exports, along with lamb, Flight of the Conchords and “The Lord of the Rings.” The aromatic varietal represents four out of every five bottles of wine that leave New Zealand shores. With such a reliance on this cat’s-pee-in-a-gooseberry-bush grape, the industry launched extensive research to explore its key aroma and flavor compounds, and how they relate to viticulture and winemaking.

“In our research program, we wanted to understand the unique characters of New Zealand sauvignon blanc,” explains Dr Simon Hooker, general manager for research at N.Z. Winegrowers. “What are its sensory attributes? Can they be linked back to viticultural management? Are they generated in the vineyard, through winemaking processes, or by the yeasts?”

The findings of six years of research are revealed in a new book, “The Science of Sauvignon Blanc,” authored by U.K. wine writer – and plant biologist – Dr. Jamie Goode.

Hooker says the book presents a “very user-friendly” overview of the questions that prompted the research, and provides the wine industry with “new tools for driving flavor.”

So what did the study program reveal?

Read on …

 

Also read:

The Complete Guide: Wines of the Southern Hemisphere is an amazing gift. To have this book for my wine library is a tremendous resource; and, making the time to read it delivered even more gifts.

 

wine

 

Written by Mike Desimone & Jeff Jenssen, two very savvy World Wine Guys who are wine, spirits, food, and travel writers, have gone around the world and are now sharing those adventures. Their gathered stories are warm and very informative, sharing much of what they learned in this very thorough book. Representing each region well, they also present it in such a way that the only thing left to satisfy is your own personal curiosity through adventures you need to start planning….

Much of the Southern Hemisphere has escaped me because I’ve never physically made it over the equator. I’ve been to the South Pacific, to the Caribbean, Canada, most of the US states (40+ states), and to Europe… but not gone over the equator.

My favorite section was Chile. Perhaps it’s because I was part of the Wines of Chile Blogger Tasting led by Master Sommelier Fred Dexheimer, and enjoying those wine immensely. It was very enlightening about this wine grape growing country, with the book connecting me on a much deeper level with that recent wine exposure.
Read on …

uve

In order to appreciate wine, it’s essential to understand the characteristics different grapes offer and how those characteristics should be expressed in wines. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Zinfandel are all red grapes, but as wines their personalities are quite different. Even when grown in different appellations and vinified using different techniques, a varietal wine always displays certain qualities, which are inherent in the grape’s personality. Muscat should always be spicy, Sauvignon Blanc a touch herbal. Zinfandel is zesty, with pepper and wild berry flavors. Cabernet Sauvignon is marked by plum, currant and black cherry flavors and firm tannins. Understanding what a grape should be as a wine is fundamental, and knowing what a grape can achieve at its greatest is the essence of fine-wine appreciation.

In Europe, the finest wines are known primarily by geographic appellation (although this is changing; witness the occasional French and Italian varietals). Elsewhere, however—as in America, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand—most wines are labeled by their varietal names; even, sometimes, by grape combinations (Cabernet-Shiraz, for example). To a large extent, this is because in the United States, the process of sorting out which grapes grow best in which appellations is ongoing and Americans were first introduced to fine wine by varietal name. In Europe, with a longer history for matching grape types to soil and climate, the research is more conclusive: Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, for instance, are the major grapes of Burgundy. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petite Verdot are the red grapes of Bordeaux. Syrah dominates northern Rhône reds. Barolo and Barbaresco are both made of Nebbiolo, but the different appellations produce different styles of wine. In Tuscany, Sangiovese provides the backbone of Chianti. A different clone of Sangiovese is used for Brunello di Montalcino.

As a result, Europeans are used to wines with regional names.

In time, the New World’s appellation system may well evolve into one more like Europe’s. Already California appellations such as Carneros and Santa Maria Valley are becoming synonymous with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Oregon’s Willamette Valley is known for Pinot Noir and Australia’s Hunter Valley for Shiraz; back in California, Rutherford, Oakville and the Stags Leap District are all associated with Cabernet-based red table wines. Wineries with vested financial interests in these appellations and the marketing clout to emphasize the distinctive features of the wines grown in these areas will determine how the appellation system evolves and whether specific wine styles emerge. The appellations themselves will also determine which grapes excel and deserve special recognition.

Following are descriptions of the most commonly used Vitis vinifera grapes. 

Maybe if called Surin, Blanc Fumé or even Muscat Silvaner, it would not evoke such an emotional response.

What could be better than a good Sauvignon Blanc?

What could be better than a good Sauvignon Blanc?

But alas, Sauvignon Blanc by any other name is still Sauvignon Blanc and when the word is uttered there are either those who love it and will defend it with a passion or those who hate it!

If it was possible to personify this grape as a vocalist, Sauvignon Blanc would most certainly be Chris Chameleon.

Bold, versatile and thunderous in style, Chris hits even the highest notes with an electric, daring edge.
You can expect nothing less from Sauvignon Blanc.

Sauvignon Blanc is a snappy, zesty grape, full of aromatic personality and apart from the Muscat family; Sauvignon Blanc is the only grape variety that actually tastes like a grape in the finished wine.

From humble beginnings in France, where it was cultivated from the early 18th century and mostly blended with Semillon and Muscadelle, Sauvignon Blanc excelled to become a variety that is today being grown around the world, where it has an unique personality and taste in every region.

Initially only small quantities were planted in South Africa, as from 1920. By 1979 the demand for Sauvignon Blanc exploded and new plantings increased exponentially. By November 2011, 28 771 302 Sauvignon Blanc vines were planted on more than 9 644 hectares.

Although Chardonnay remains the most popular white wine, there is no stopping Sauvignon Blanc’s growing popularity worldwide and this grape represents the most likely challenger to the throne.

For many, Sauvignon Blanc also polarised the term ‘cult wine’, having nothing to do with exclusivity or intellect; to the contrary, its magnetism was based on being the consummate social lubricant acceptable and approachable in price and style to all. Surely this is a good thing, unless you’re a complete and utter wine snob.

Marc Hanes (The Hanes Wine Review, October 2005,) also mention a curious and little known fact about Sauvignon Blanc, “Sauvignon Blanc is a “parent” of Cabernet Sauvignon. The latter has been shown to be the result of a spontaneous field crossing between Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc (a grape which is used to make red wines) in the 18th century in some unknown vineyard in France’s Bordeaux region where Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc were inter-planted. So, a grape which was used to make white wines is half responsible for the existence of perhaps the world’s most famous grape used to make a red wine. The world is a mysterious and beautiful place.”

Because of its high acidity and crisp, clean taste, Sauvignon Blanc is a great wine to serve with food.

Mostly being in a light- to medium-bodied style, Sauvignon Blanc happily belongs at the beginning of a meal. Its high acidity and crisp style is a match made in heaven for many first courses such as soups, salads, and appetizers.

Sauvignon Blanc also works well with foods that are difficult to pair wine with, like green vegetables and spicy dishes. The herbaceous nature of Sauvignon Blanc pairs perfectly with fresh herbs and its natural acidity enables it to stand up to foods with higher acidity, like goat cheese, tomatoes, and yogurt. Any other wine with less acidity would simply taste flabby with these foods.

Sauvignon Blanc is a seafood wine par excellence! It is best served with shellfish and lighter fish such as sole or cod and also good with acidic Indian dishes and Thai dishes with creamy coconut sauces or even milder aromatic curries.

Tasting Sauvignon Blanc

Look at the Colour

Hold your glass up to the light. Sauvignon blanc is definitely the most well known wine that has hints of green. Sauvignon Blanc colour can vary substantially from brilliantly clear to green-yellow or even golden amber.

Nose the wine

Swirl the wine in your glass; it will release a range of aromas. Take a fast sniff for a first impression. Smell more deeply and slowly. What do you pick up?

Sauvignon Blanc is very distinctive and one of the easier cultivars to identify by its pronounced and aggressive aroma and bouquet profile.

Varietal (from the grape) Aromas include:
Herbaceous: grass, herbs, lemongrass, gooseberry
Vegetable: capsicum (sweet peppers), green olive, asparagus, green beans
Fruit: grapefruit, lime, lemon, melon, green figs
Aggressive: chalky, mineral, “cat pee”
Fermentation and wine processing Bouquet include:

Vanilla, sweet wood, butter, cream, oak, smoke, toast, flint
Evaluate the taste
Take a sip and let it rest in your mouth before swallowing. Consider the taste. Does the taste go away quickly or linger? Is it tart or flabby?

With naturally high acidity, Sauvignon Blanc is always tangy, tart, racy, or zesty.

Consider the palate

Take another sip of wine. Before swallowing, take in a little air. This will activate your senses further. Notice how the wine feels in your mouth. How does the touch affect your tongue and throat as you swallow?

On the future of Sauvignon Blanc, Mike Radcliffe had the following to say; “While Sauvignon Blanc has proved immensely popular with consumers, there has always been a feeling that it is a non-serious variety. You just don’t find many Sauvignons priced £15 and over, whereas for most other varieties, this sort of price ceiling doesn’t exist. For this reason, it’s exciting to see the work being done by Duncan Savage at Cape Point Vineyards. From this cool, maritime spot Duncan has for some years been making one of South Africa’s top Sauvignons. With some oak and a bit of Semillon in the blend, the Cape Point Isliedh is one of the world’s best expressions of Sauvignon, complex and precise and capable of ageing. This is the sort of wine that could see Sauvignon taken much more seriously by the fine wine community.”.