My Sauvignon Blanc paradox

Katalin Kiszel-Kohari - November 2, 2019

When drinking and enjoying wine, I try mostly not the top, well-established flagship products, that is why you attend wine tastings for, but the humble, everyday ones. Obviously, budget is an issue for most of us! The way I see this, you should appreciate the modest fells with stunning views, not just the Mount Everest. That is out of reach for most people. Cheap, or reasonably priced, does not necessarily mean bad quality. No need to be snobbish about it. And to be fair they are well-worth trying as well.

Lately Sauvignon Blanc become a very fashionable grape variety, and everyone seems to be rather fond of anything from Marlborough, New Zealand. My perception about it was mostly that they were a bit over the top, a bit too easy drinking, too much like a punch in your face, overwhelming, therefore not very sophisticated or elegant. That was my snooty, wine-buff stance more or less. I was always rather suspicious with them and liked to opt for a South-African one, or a French one. The French flair, I suppose. I found them more subtle. Somehow better.

Recently I have tried a Sauvignon Blanc, by chance, that really did make me think and shake me up about how a certain style of wine can be superior, and classy. It was not the usual staff. Gave me a run for my money. It was restrained, refined with depth and elegance. Stylish yet a wine with class. All those clues that I should not have found in that bottle, yet they were there. It tasted more like a good Pouilly-Fume to me than a typical Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.

It had the pronounced nose, but with less overbearing fruit and more vegetal complexity. Like it was fermented on higher temperature, which is really not characteristic to New Zealand. You could find the tell-tale ripe gooseberry, with a bit of passionfruit and grass, but with nettle, bruised leaf and a definitive creaminess, and a silky-smooth texture. That, my friends, is quite odd as far as I am concerned for Sauvignon Blanc. But a good and well-placed odd on this occasion, I might add. Creaminess is a result of the decision of the wine maker. An outcome that can be eliminated, if undesirable. It covers series of chemical reactions that result a harsher acid becoming a mellower acid and translates as a creamy mouthfeel to you and me. The interesting thing is that an aromatic grape such as Sauvignon Blanc does not really benefit from it at all. Because it can lose the very much welcomed and loved volatile fruits. And you want to keep the zingy acidity, the crispness to hold the fruitiness in place. And somehow here we are, a bottle, that cost slightly less than a tenner, and even I could detect some very elegant answers to the question, how to make a bottle of wine memorable. I can sense how beautifully well-made wine I am drinking, how much effort really went into it. That is where I am at. Startled. Startled by my own prejudice. Startled by how difficult to make a wine that stands out, but if it does, certainly worth exploring it.

And just be humble…

Port Underwood, New Zealand, Sauvignon Blanc, Lot 13., Small Parcel 2015.

Photographs by The Tannin Addict.