Don’t get me wrong, I’m a firm believer in letting people do whatever rocks their boats. Who am I to judge? As long as you are drinking wine (especially if it is something I’m flogging 😀 ), I couldn’t care less what you are having and how you decide to have it: hot, cold, with coke, in food… you name it, you’ve bought it!
However, almost universally Sauvignon Blanc has become that terribly crisp and unimaginative fruit bomb or glass full of grass, spring chicken to be drunk straight off the bottling line which I believe does the cultivar a great disservice. Given, majority of them are produced in such an easy drinking, cheap, swimming pool wine style, which, ironically, is probably what is keeping the industry afloat. Nonetheless, this need not be the be all and end all of Sauvignon Blanc…
It’s a remarkable grape variety capable of surprising depth, complexity, fragrance and most importantly versatility. Heavily dependent on the location it is planted (the French calling that terroir), it truly can be a beaut in the right setting! And to my reverence, there are producers that are churning out sheer stunners year after year! But yet the market is repeatedly drinking them way too early: before that acidity that many claim to be too tart and austere, carries that very wine into a graceful age; maturing into a classy lady or sophisticated gentleman.
I recently tried two such expressions, the last of which, driven by the number of other wines I had to taste that night, brought on this heartfelt rant. Both were probably remarkable in youth, however as I keep telling a certain little lady, I rather prefer allowing them to age into their peak, where their elegance and subtly is a greater spectacle than their youthful vibrance.
The Marianne 2011 vintage was fermented in stainless steel tanks, followed by 30% of it being aged in new French oak barrels for 6 months. The sediments consisting of dead yeast cells, insoluble tartrates, skin fragments and other particles (jointly called lees) were frequently stirred up as the wine aged in a process known as bâtonnage.
Trying the finished product over the weekend, it was slightly golden and gaining that canned peas aroma that aged Sauvignons get. It was slightly nutty and earthy as well, showing more secondary fruit flavours such as melons, gooseberries and other stone fruits. Slightly creamy, the wine was in perfect balance: acidity, fruit and complexity equally integrated, yet still refreshing with the acidity holding up. You could easily drink two bottles only to realise it on the third. I however, wouldn’t see it aging further for many more years.
The next I tried was the 2008 from Steenberg. It was seemingly worked quite hard in the cellar. Made rather reductively (meaning trying to keep oxygen as far away from the wine as possible), they added ascorbic acid, sulphur and dry ice as they crushed and pressed the grapes. They further allowed a day of skin contact with the juice, thereafter fermenting and aging the wine in stainless steel tanks, and allowing for some lees contact in the process.
Before sparking the rant, the wine showed a deep golden hue and had a boxwood/blackcurrant leaf character to it. It was rich and deep, with good intensity of yellow fleshy fruit, with a linden type fragrance. Further still, the lemon acidity held up beautifully and lingered long after the wine was gone. At some point I picked up delicate white pepper and savoury notes that turned a little meaty at the end. This wine could still go on a little longer.
… Coming to the end of this post, I’m not sure how to finish it off: a rant should be purely emotive and unforgiving in its stance, which goes against everything I believe in wine… With that in mind, I urge you to keep drinking whatever type of Sauvignon Blanc you like, though once in a while splurge a little, buy up and hold it back for at least a year or two, I guarantee it will have you rethinking your haste!