Colin Burbidge, of Lancashire Wine School, writes about the changing tastes of white wine
Fashions come and go in the wine world as they do elsewhere.
Once the darling white of UK consumers Chardonnay soon became the Cinderella grape with people ditching its full body for lighter varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc.
This wonderful grape arrived on the scene just in time to grab the imagination of British wine drinkers with lots of delicious supply arriving from around the world.
The star supplier being almost exactly half way round the world, New Zealand.
This grape’s origins lie much closer to home, just a few hours drive from Calais in The Loire Valley, France, and a little further south in Bordeaux.
The famous names in the Loire have been around for a long time in the guise of Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé. These cool-climate regions produce crisp wines with herbal, sometimes vegetal aromas, tell-tale gooseberry and mouth-watering citrus.
They are food wines, best enjoyed with seafood or goat’s cheese. Not everyone’s preference but in The Lancashire Wine School tastings we always find a fan at every gathering. For a good example try The Wine Society’s Domain Seguin at £14.50.
When it comes to Sauvignon Blanc the new kid on the block is New Zealand, and specifically Marlborough. This small region at the northern tip of the South Island has the right cool climate to make this grape feel at home as Sauvignon Blanc doesn’t like it hot!
The unique character of local micro-climates means the character of these wines carry both the crisp acidity typical of French Sauvignon while introducing tropical flavours from the ample ripening sunshine.
It all started with humble beginnings when some 40 years ago the first Sauvignon Blanc vines were planted for commercial purposes. In wine history terms this is very recent.
By the 1980s the iconic Cloudy Bay was world-famous.
Since then many other producers have followed suit with more affordable wines finding their way on to the UK market (some two-thirds of New Zealand wine are sold into the UK).
On the courses I often use the widely available Mud House Sauvignon Blanc as a good example of New
Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. The wine oozes passion fruit aromas and flavours with mouth-watering acidity making it a great summer-glugger or good seafood wine at around £8.50.
Not all Marlborough Sauvignon Blancs taste the same and there can be as much flavour variety, complexity and high-priced quality as their French counterparts.
For a treat pop down to DVino on Fishergate Hill to taste the truly classy Auntsfield Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc at £15.99. Here the tropical fruit is restrained allowing the crisp gooseberry to win through with a long lime and grapefruit finish.
Great for food or just enjoying on its own… worth savouring though.
Sauvignon Blanc from around the world is readily available and if you find Loire Sauvignon too herbal and sharp, while Marlborough to full-on and tropical try a drop of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc which is often somewhere between the two for flavour and character. Look out for the cool Chilean region of Casablanca to enjoy the best Chilean Sauvignon Blanc.