What to drink…

This month, Richard Hem­ming takes a look at the Sau­vi­gnon Blanc grape va­ri­ety

Living France - - À LA MAISON -

For cen­turies, the vil­lages of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé in the Loire Val­ley have qui­etly spe­cialised in mak­ing de­li­cious, fra­grant, dry white wines from the Sau­vi­gnon Blanc grape – but it wasn’t un­til New Zealand started pro­duc­ing it in the 1980s that this va­ri­ety be­came world fa­mous.

The Kiwi style had a pow­er­ful and ripe goose­berry fruit flavour that ev­ery­body loved. It was worlds apart from the more re­strained, del­i­cate styles of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé, and be­sides, hardly any­body knew that these wines were made from the same raw in­gre­di­ents any­way.

In re­sponse, many French Sau­vi­gnon Blanc pro­duc­ers started mak­ing wines that im­i­tated the ‘fruit bombs’ of the south­ern hemi­sphere – and they did a re­mark­ably good job. Nowa­days, both the mod­ern and tra­di­tional styles are avail­able from France, and I’ve made a few spe­cific rec­om­men­da­tions be­low.

While flavour in­ten­sity can vary, all Sau­vi­gnon Blancs share some com­mon char­ac­ter­is­tics. High acid­ity is one of the most dis­tinc­tive, giv­ing the wines a crisp, mouth­wa­ter­ing style. They are nearly all light or medium bod­ied, and very rarely have oak in­flu­ence. Aro­mat­i­cally, they tend to have cit­rus flavours – lemon, lime, goose­berry – as well as herbal char­ac­ter­is­tics, of­ten com­pared with cut grass or net­tles. The most prized ex­am­ples can have a ‘min­eral’ qual­ity – which is a bit like the aroma of flint or slate.

Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé are the best ex­am­ples of the min­eral style – but they tend to be quite ex­pen­sive. More af­ford­able ver­sions from the Loire can be found from the ap­pel­la­tions of Quincy, Touraine, Mene­tou-Sa­lon and Reuilly – and you can also find some Sau­vi­gnon Blanc in Bordeaux.

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