New Sauvignons to make you smile

Sauvignon Blanc is the belle of the ball when it comes to white but it can take many guises

To continue the white grape theme of a couple of weeks back, if chardonnay is left to sit out the dance, sauvignon blanc is so often the belle of the ball. But her choice of gown can be very different, according to the mood of her dressmaker or where the party is held.

That came home very much to me as I lined up a small and somewhat random selection of bottles – mid-range, not multi-buy cheapies which can be so disappointing – from around the world’s sauvignon blanc vineyards for a group of friends. The ones which were in most demand proved not always to be those which flaunted their designer.

Again, it was a case of France versus the rest. But this time the honours were much more even. I’m still smiling about two of the wines particularly: Fouassier Sancerre Clos Paradis 2010 and Te Mata Cape Crest Hawkes Bay 2010, France and New Zealand respectively. And dancing along on their heels is a Chilean contender, Errazuriz Single Vineyard Aconcagua Costa 2011.

They are very different wines. Clos Paradis (Bibendum, �97.60 for a case of six, phone 020 7449 4120 to arrange collection at the Primrose Hill offices to avoid delivery charges) has the most extraordinary scents: it defeated my pretty large repertoire of adjectives. There are flowers, a touch of citrus, a generous hint of ripe pineapple and something stony too … In the mouth there is a wondrous echo of those and more, lingering long and delicious.

I don’t normally quote a grower’s tasting notes, but this one is spot on: “Un miracle d’�quilibre.” Has all this something to do with the Fouassier family’s biodynamic vineyard practices? I don’t know, but the result is memorable. Interestingly, they recommend drinking the wine with food at a slightly higher temperature than that suggested for preliminary tasting – flavours do change.

Cape Crest (Majestic, �16 if you buy at least two still New Zealand wines) shows its Kiwi origins, but in an unusual, restrained, almost European way, its initial complex mix of tropical fruit and herbaceous scents expanding elegantly in the mouth. There is also splendid balanced freshness, which broadens its food compatibility. A touch of semillon and sauvignon gris join the sauvignon blanc and while all are three-barrel fermented – separately – the oak is barely discernible.

Most Read

Actually rather more Kiwi in character is Aconcagua Costa (Wine Rack �9, Waitrose �12), which has a bold but tempting tropical-fruited zestiness – a wine with real character, unlike some dilute and boring cheaper Chilean examples I’ve experienced recently. It develops a distinct sweet edge with food, but is still a very pleasant glassful.

We paired the wines with very sauvignon blanc-friendly food: a salad of lettuce with serrano ham, warm olive-oil sweated peas and spring onions and lemon in the dressing, then ratatouille and finally a mature Sussex goat crottin. The favourites sailed through all parts of the test – an arm-in-arm experience. The crottin was the biggest challenge, tangy and sharp. But the partnerships were still friendly.

There should be honorable mentions, too, for two of the other wines we tried, both from Tesco: Domaine de Bel Air Cuv�e des Acoins Pouilly Fum� 2011 (�15) which has appealing gooseberry flavours and a delicate crispness, and Rustenberg sauvignon-chardonnay 2011 (�10), with a pleasant peachy ripeness.

Conclusions after the last waltz indicated the worth of moving up market just a bit when buying sauvignon. There is no lack of choice, so why not go dancing round the world – for example, at Majestic there’s 20 per cent off any two Chilean or New Zealand sauvignons, and Waitrose currently has some decent discounts.