Sauvignon blanc choices for your must-drink list

glass of white wine

Sauvignon blanc. I love it. Now and again there’s some pain I put myself through to write about wine (let alone being stabbed by corkscrews).

Tasting extraordinary 2012 sauvignon blancs has certainly not been one of those occasions. Let’s start with a new selection from the Wine Society.

It has packaged a New Zealand sauvignon blanc case which the society believes to be “the purest and most precise examples of Marlborough sauvignon”. (It includes 12 bottles at £136, details from www.thewinesociety.com)

Pierre Mansour, the society’s buyer for NZ, says: “The relatively cool year produced naturally low yields of fruit full of outstanding flavour, intensity and power, backed by a fine line of refreshing acidity.

“ Importantly the harvest produced grapes rich in the classic tropical fruit flavours that we all love about good Marlborough sauvignon blanc.”

Here’s thoughts on two of them.

Stoneburn Sauvignon Blanc, 2012 (£7.25, abv 13%): The vineyard is on an old riverbed so the stones retain warmth, cradling the grapes.

This wine has a clean, powerful nose with the sweet smell of freshly-cut grass from the first “gardening” weekend of Spring. It has sprightly gooseberry but with the subtle dryness of a newly-chopped green pepper. Delicious.

The Society’s New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc (£8.95, abv 13%) is pale lemon tinged with green, and grapefruit and lime combine on the nose to give the enticing senses-thrill typical of sauvignon blanc. It has pronounced stone fruit flavours which linger after a burst of acidity.

Villa Maria Reserve Sauvignon blanc
Villa Maria Reserve Sauvignon blanc

Villa Maria, one of New Zealand’s largest producers, makes The Society’s New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

The estate has its own stunning contribution to my missive, with Villa Maria Reserve Wairau Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2012, (RRP £13.99, Majestic Wine, abv 13%).

A short-lived shivery zing typical of young wine releases aromas of passion fruit and gooseberry with a flinty edge.

From a distant place, blackcurrant haunts, as if someone had walked past me with a newly-picked punnet – but I couldn’t quite see where they’d gone.

This wine spent a short time on the lees which brings complexity and adds a softness of touch to the pronounced tropical and grassy flavours.

Rockridge Sauvignon (M&S, £5.99 from £7.99 until January 27, abv 12%) is from South Africa where the grapes were harvested from low yielding bush vines in the coastal region. It has a crisp, fruity, dry character with green fruit and green peapod-sweet aromas.

To taste, it reflects the gentleness of pears and melon rather than the New Zealand hit-and-crisp pin-brightness of citrus fruit.

Grapes grown in Chile can be found in Tierra y Hombre Sauvignon Blanc, 2012 (also M&S, reduced to £5.99 until January 27, abv 12.5%).

It does not have a gooseberry “hit” like its NZ cousins, but is softer on the nose with herbs and wild grass and – possibly from the Pacific air – a hint of dry saltiness. It is easy-drinking with in-the-mouth dryness of gooseberry skins.

Finally, if you take your sauvignon blanc via the recognisable brand Casillero del Diablo, then you may like to know that its Sauvignon Blanc 2011 – also from Chile – is reduced from £7.99 to £5.99 until February 5 at Co-op stores.

First published in the Liverpool Post, January 18 2013

How the Morrisons wine taste test tool can help your choices

ONE MAN’S nectar is another man’s poison. That may be a saying or perhaps I made it up.

When it comes down to enjoying wine – and I’ve said it here before – the bottom line is personal taste.

Who knows how much money is spent by Mrs Bloggs buying a wine her husband Joe says is fab – only for Mrs Bloggs to disagree and hit him over the head with a wet copy of the Liverpool Post.

With this in mind, when Morrisons wine entered the online wine market a few weeks ago with www.morrisonscellar.com, the chain included an interactive “taste test” tool developed with Bibendum. It aims to help people buy wine to match their tastebuds.

The retailer proclaims: “Having analysed the wine-buying habits of 10,000 UK wine drinkers, Morrisons discovered people need help choosing wines with confidence they know they’ll love when they open the bottle. With our unique taste test we’ll help you find the wines that your tastebuds will delight in.”

I had to give it a go. It would have been rude not to. To take part, you click on the  Morrisons Taste Test questions directly, or follow a video hosted by a “cheeky chappie” no doubt chosen because of his “normal bloke” persona. Either way the questions are the same.

Your favourite hot drink; soft drink preferences and how, if and when you add salt to food. You make your choices, then you’re graded within one of four flavour profiles – Sweet: 0-3; Fresh: 4-6; Smooth: 7-9; Intense: 10 -12.

I was Smooth. The only time in my life, possibly. I’m a Smooth 7.

Cheeky Chappie is on a video clip explaining the science. People have a different number of tastebuds. Those with fewer tastebuds are “non-tasters” so they need bold, intense flavours. People with many tastebuds are “supertasters” and they prefer sweet or floral wines.

Then there’s people like me, in the middle, who have a penchant for fresh, smooth, wines.

Is the proof in the pudding – perhaps, but instead of pudding I tried some “Smooth 7” wines as indicated on the site. Science says you can go up or down a level and still be happy. Here goes.

  • Macon-Verze 2010 (£8.99) Described as “a beautifully balanced, melon- and citrus-tinged hefty French Chardonnay”. Well I don’t go for “hefty” chardonnay but by accident or design this was spot on for me. Lightly honeyed with good acidity and hints of pineapple.
  • Irony Russian River Valley Pinot Noir (£19.99). A Smooth 100 Per Cent. Morning fog helps the pernickety pinot noir grapes develop in California but once in the glass juicy notes of strawberries and raspberries punch with fruity clarity.
  • Novas Viognier (£9.99, Smooth 7). I love viognier; this one is from one of the most prominent organic and biodynamic estates in Chile, Emiliana. Peaches and almonds mingle in creamy heaven. I think I’m still on course with my Smooth 7s … unless …
  • Spy Valley Envoy Chardonnay 2009 (£17.99) “elegant citrus and flint” says the website. Spy Valley is so-called because of a satellite monitoring station nearby. I wish I could say it made me feel out of this world, but chardonnay fermented in barrels – in this instance for a year, with lees stirring – is not my favourite thing. Saying that, there’s no disputing the elegance of this nutty, creamy wine which won a silver at the International Wine Challenge in 2011.

It’s just not suited to my tastebuds. Ah. How fickle we are.

 This column first appeared in the Liverpool Post on January 11 2013