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Wine

Know Your Variety: Sauvignon Blanc

The aromatic and easy-drinking nature of Sauvignon Blanc has seen it become our most popular white wine. While most famous as a refreshing fruit-driven style full of tropical characters, it can also be made with some time in barrel to add complexity.
 
To help reveal more about Australian Sauvignon Blanc, we caught up with Tom Northcott of Howard Vineyard, Dan Berrigan of Berrigan Wines, Tim Knappstein of Riposte by Tim Knappstein and the Burch family of Howard Park Wines.
 

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Origins

The home of Sauvignon Blanc is France’s Loire Valley, where it’s most famous for wines from the sub-regions of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé. Thanks to DNA mapping work in the late 90s, it was discovered that found that Sauvignon Blanc is the parent of the great red variety of Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon and that mainstay red of the Loire, Cabernet Franc. This apparently happened through natural mutation and selection in the 17th century and it’s evident in the varietal flavour profile, where all three varieties seem to have herbaceous and leafy aromas.
 

 

Sauvignon Blanc in Australia

Sauvignon Blanc needs a cool climate to give it a defined acid profile and fruit vibrancy. Leading the way is the Adelaide Hills region, which produces crisp, fresh and grassy Sav Blanc.
 
Other Australian regions famous for Sauvignon Blanc are Orange with its fruity and herbaceous examples and Western Australia’s Margaret River and Pemberton regions for ripe and zippy styles with tropical characteristics.
 
The cool climes of the Yarra Valley, King Valley and Goulburn Valley produce restrained and elegant Sav Blanc, while Tasmania is winning favour for its dry, occasionally oaked styles with their elevated acidity. Coonawarra, McLaren Vale and Langhorne Creek also do well, producing fruit driven and richer styles.
 

What the experts say

Tom Northcott – winemaker, Howard Vineyard, Adelaide Hills

Sauvignon Blanc is so great a few reasons, it’s light, bright typically clean with distinctive fruit flavours of citrus, pink grapefruit and slight tropical aromas when done well. It’s the perfect easy drinking wine that easily understood.
 
The Adelaide Hills is the best place to grow Sauvignon Blanc due to our high altitude vineyards. Sauvignon Blanc is most delicate and pretty when grown around 450m above sea level. In the hills, this means the cool nights lock in great natural acidity and the warm days give lovely slow ripening conditions, all making our fruit vibrant and fresh.
 

Dan Berrigan – winemaker, Berrigan Wines, Mount Benson

Sauv Blanc is such a bright and fresh, fruity (yet dry) wine, that is just so consistently high quality in Australia, so as a consumer you know what you’re buying with very little unwanted surprises.
 
The cool and breezy, maritime climate found in Mount Benson enables us to consistently grow premium Sauvignon Blanc with grapevine canopies that are very open to sunlight, that in turn results in a high level of tropical fruit flavours in the grape skins and subsequent wine. The cool, sunny days during summer also enable us to ripen our fruit slowly to maturity while retaining plenty of natural acidity which gives the wine plenty of life and ‘zing’!
 

Tim Knappstein – winemaker, Riposte by Tim Knappstein, Adelaide Hills

We think that the Riposte Sauv Blancs are rather special because they are made entirely from fruit from high altitude (500 metres+) vineyards in the Adelaide Hills.
 
We like the punchy, powerful flavours, and then we ferment a portion of it in new French oak to give the wine texture and weight. We’re not looking for really obvious oak, nor do we want lees characters to detract from the fruit. The added weight of the oaked component also helps to balance the high natural acidity that these vineyards produce.

The Burch family – owners, Howard Park Wines, Margaret River

Margaret River has a very temperate maritime climate, we’re surrounded by the ocean on three sides. The conditions are ideal to create a delicate and complex Sauvignon Blanc with aromas of citrus, some gooseberry, elderflower and lemon scented herbs. The palate retains this same fine fruit expression as a soft lemon curd richness adds dimension and texture. A fine balance is retained as the gentle citrus like acidity gives length and crispness to finish.
 

 

Matching food with Sauvignon Blanc

With such a range of styles, Sauvignon Blanc is a versatile food wine. The generous herbaceous characters are perfectly matched with dishes featuring green vegetables, particularly asparagus and broad beans, such as a vegetable fritatta.
 
The drier styles, such as those from Tasmania, are highlighted by their acid crunchi.e., bright, crisp, elevated acidity. This means ingredients with crunch work well; think grain dishes such as risotto and quinoa, as well as salads with grilled vegetables.
 
More generous styles have softer acidity and work well with smelly washed rind cheeses and goats cheeses such as ash-rolled chèvre.
 
For Tom, food matching is as much about setting as flavour: “My favourite match for Sauvignon Blanc is another Aussie classic, salt and pepper squid and a fresh salad. It’s the perfect combo especially near the beach out in the sun!”
 
Dan’s choice is a pasta classic: “My favourite Sauv Blanc food match is definitely grilled chicken carbonara. The fresh fruit flavours and lively acidity of the wine cuts through the creaminess of the Carbonara, while that same creaminess of the sauce and the rustic character of the grilled chicken and salty bacon re-sets your palate nicely and highlights the fruitiness of the wine.”
 
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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