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Sauvignon Blanc Global Masters 2014: The results

Sauvignon Blanc is undoubtedly one of the biggest success stories for the wine industry in recent years. While Sancerre has long been a staple of fridges and wine lists around the world, the vivacious, aromatic expressions unleashed by the New World in particular have catapulted this grape variety to a whole new level of consumer awareness.

Sauvignon-Blanc-Masters-Judges-Concentrating

The latest report to July 2014 from the Wine & Spirits Trade Association shows that, in the UK at least, Sauvignon Blanc remains on a firm upward trajectory. What’s more, commanding a well above average off-trade retail price of £6.08 per 75cl bottle (compared to £5.27 for Chardonnay), this is far more than just a volume driver.

As such, Sauvignon Blanc represented an obvious candidate for the latest extension to The Drinks Business Global Masters Series. What’s more, with no fewer than 17 different countries represented among the medallists, the blind tasting format flagged up both the high quality and truly international offer from this grape variety today.

About the competition

• The Global Sauvignon Blanc Masters is a competition created and run by the drinks business, and is an extension of its successful Global Masters series for major international varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.• With Sauvignon Blanc entries from around the world, in total nearly 150 wines were judged blind by a group of Masters of Wine and senior buyers

This diversity of origin extended right up to the very highest medal categories. While New Zealand scooped a predictably large proportion of gold medals awarded, it shared this podium with Spain, France, Australia, South Africa, Chile and the US. Meanwhile it was a Sauvignon Blanc from Spain – hardly the first place most people would associate with this grape – that took home the only Master of the competition.

Regardless of origin, the judges offered a clear view of what they look for from Sauvignon Blanc. “It needs to be alive, tight and mouth-watering,” summed up Sarah Knowles, buyer for The Wine Society. Expanding on this view, Clive Barlow MW, director of merchant and consultancy business Press Wine Services, remarked: “There always needs to be harmony between crisp acidity and fruit, whatever that fruit style may be.” Despite the proliferation of Sauvignon Blanc in the marketplace, he also warned: “It’s not a forgiving variety. You’ve got to be careful or you can lose some aromatics.”

SUCCESS STORIES

As the discussion developed, there was an acknowledgement of the significant impact that one country in particular has had on this variety’s profile. “New Zealand has been so successful it’s shaped the market,” remarked Barlow. However, he stopped short of suggesting that competitors need to pursue this country’s trademark highly aromatic expression in order to succeed. Rather, he continued, “New Zealand raised the profile of the variety. It made people realise there’s more out there and maybe helped to break that Pinot Grigio stranglehold.” In particular Barlow pointed to the boost this raised awareness has given to the Loire. “People know it’s not the New Zealand style but they’re still happy to buy it,” he reported. “New Zealand has moved people towards a grape that they might not otherwise have tried. The Loire is still the home of Sauvignon Blanc and sells really well.”

Clem-Yates-MW
Clem Yates MW

Despite the success of these two regions, for those in search of a bargain, Laithwaites’ global buyer & winemaker Robin Langton waved the flag for a completely different corner of the world. “New Zealand is still the category leader but Chile is better value for money,” he insisted. “Under £10 Chilean Sauvignon Blanc over-delivers quality to price.” For all this area of strength, that was not to suggest that the country should restrict its focus to the entry level. While Langton praised Leyda as offering “benchmark” expressions of Sauvignon Blanc, the competition also threw up a pleasant discovery for presenter and consultant Sam Caporn MW: “One real surprise was a 2006 Sauvignon from Chile that had passed the test of time really very well,” she reported.

OAK WORRIES

Left to right: Clive Barlow MW, director, Press Wine Services Clem Yates MW, sourcing & supply director, Off-Piste Wines Rebecca Palmer, associate director & buyer, Corney & Barrow Patrick Schmitt, editor in chief, the drinks business Sam Caporn MW, consultant John Casson MW, consultant Gabriel Stone, managing editor, the drinks business Hugo Rose MW, chairman, Wine Investment Association Sarah Knowles, buyer, The Wine Society Simon Howland, staff writer, the drinks business Robin Langton, senior buyer & consultant winemaker, Laithwaites
Judges – Left to right: Clive Barlow MW, director, Press Wine Services; Clem Yates MW, sourcing & supply director, Off-Piste Wines; Rebecca Palmer, associate director & buyer, Corney & Barrow; Patrick Schmitt, editor in chief, the drinks business; Sam Caporn MW, consultant; John Casson MW, consultant; Gabriel Stone, managing editor, the drinks business; Hugo Rose MW, chairman, Wine Investment Association; Sarah Knowles, buyer, The Wine Society; Simon Howland, staff writer, the drinks business; Robin Langton, senior buyer & consultant winemaker, Laithwaites

If there was one particular area of contention among the judges, it was the issue of using oak to vinify Sauvignon Blanc. Described as “a car crash” by Hugo Rose MW, chairman of the Wine Investment Association, others offered a more nuanced view. “Undoubtedly there are some great oaked Sauvignon Blancs around the world,” commented Knowles. “When it’s done well it’s great, but when done badly then it’s the worst wine in the bottle. There’s no middle ground.” For Langton, this approach to Sauvignon Blanc requires intelligent handling by the producer. “It’s about winemakers trying to take the wine somewhere other than just tank-fermented and clean,” he observed, but warned that with a variety as “unforgiving” as Sauvignon Blanc, “if you’re going somewhere else it’s easy to overdo it.” Above all, Langton maintained: “As soon as you use new oak the aromatics almost fight each other.” One enthusiastic advocate of barrels for this variety was Caporn. “I really liked the oaked styles,” she declared. “When done well it adds a layer of complexity and interest that is otherwise quite hard to find in Sauvignon Blanc.”

HIGH-END APPEAL?

This connection between oak and more ambitious expressions of Sauvignon Blanc led naturally to a debate about the appeal of this variety once you venture up above the £10 or even £20 mark.

It may command a higher than average price point in the UK but, with a few notable exceptions, Sauvignon Blanc is rarely viewed as being in the same aristocratic league as Riesling or Chardonnay. Nevertheless, there were plenty of examples reaching right up to the
£30 mark that won acclaim from the judges, although there was a general consensus that Sauvignon Blanc’s natural comfort zone lies below £20. “The most impressive category in my view was £10- £20,” remarked Rebecca Palmer, associate director and buyer for Corney & Barrow. “This is the range that seemed to offer the best quality and value on the style catwalk, with wines that spanned the spectrum from exuberant, self-assured Kiwis to the more restrained and savoury.” By contrast, she found that when venturing above the £20 mark “some were simply too full- bodied to do the variety any favours.”

For Caporn, “you get what you pay for if you spend over a tenner as you get deeper concentration, better flavours, length and complexity.” However, at the very top end she echoed Palmer’s view, suggesting: “Over £20 it was harder to see the value and a couple of wines were actually penalised for that.” Nevertheless, while the £10-£20 price bracket proved a particularly prolific source of top medals, the healthy cohort of £20-£30 gold medal winners indicated both strong interest from winemakers in making these upmarket styles and the qualitative success of many such endeavours when sensitively handled.

BLENDED OFFERINGS

Judges Simon Howland and Clive Barlow MW
Judges Simon Howland and Clive Barlow MW

One final area of discussion centred on the handful of blended Sauvignon Blanc entries. There was particular enthusiasm for the results when this variety is combined with Semillon, as demonstrated so prominently by Bordeaux and Margaret River in particular. “Semillon gives you that breadth on the palate,” noted Langton as he considered the merits of this combination. However, for the moment at least, Knowles described the Sauvignon/Semillon blend as “very difficult to sell.”

Even if this style remains something of a trade secret for now, with Sauvignon Blanc’s star shining so brightly at the moment winemakers around the world have plenty of incentive to continue refining their product and pushing boundaries. Of course, many consumers will undoubtedly remain content to lap up the cheaper, crowd-pleasing expressions that occupy such a vast expanse of shelf space. However, it is reassuring to know that there are plenty of rewarding options for those who choose to explore further up the price ladder.

The medalists: Unoaked

Company Wine Country Vintage Medal
Unoaked under £10
Nederburg Wines Nederburg Winemaster’s Reserve Sauvignon Blanc South Africa 2014 Gold
Quinta de Maipo Palo Alto Sauvignon Blanc Chile 2014 Silver
Four Seasons Wines Ritu Sauvignon Blanc India 2014 Silver
Marisco Vineyards The Ned Sauvignon Blanc New Zealand 2014 Silver
Viña Valdivieso Valdivieso Reserva Sauvignon Blanc Chile 2013 Silver
Viña Casa Silva Casa Silva Cool Coast Sauvignon Blanc Chile 2014 Silver
Lismore Wines NZ Flying Kiwi New Zealand 2014 Silver
Sumaridge Estate Wines Sauvignon Blanc South Africa 2014 Silver
Te Pa Family Vineyards Te Pa Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc New Zealand 2014 Bronze
Viña MontGras Amaral Chile 2014 Bronze
Gruppo Mezzacorona Castel Firmian Sauvignon Blanc Italy 2013 Bronze
Australian Vintage McGuigan Classic Australia 2013 Bronze
Santa Carolina/Ehrmanns Santa Carolina Reserva Sauvignon Blanc Chile 2014 Bronze
Viña Siegel Siegel Special Reserve Sauvignon Blanc Chile 2014 Bronze
DGB Franschhoek Cellar, Statue de Femme Sauvignon Blanc South Africa 2014 Bronze
Bottle Green The Long White, Spring Creek Vintners New Zealand 2013 Bronze
Viña Casa Silva Reserva Cuvée Colchagua Sauvignon Blanc Chile 2014 Bronze
Viña Casa Silva Doña Dominga Coasta Sauvignon Blanc Chile 2014 Bronze
Mt Beautiful Mt Beautiful Sauvignon Blanc New Zealand 2013 Bronze
Les Vignobles Foncalieu Le Versant Sauvignon France 2013 Bronze
Cono Sur Cono Sur Reserva Especial Chile 2013 Bronze
Viña Valdivieso Reserva Sauvignon Blanc Chile 2006 Bronze
Vinimark Porcupine Sauvignon Blanc, Boekenhoutskloof South Africa 2014 Bronze
Bergsig Estate Bergsig Sauvignon Blanc South Africa 2013 Bronze
Santa Rita Estates Carmen Wave Sauvignon Blanc Chile 2014 Bronze
Santa Rita Estates Doña Paula Los Cardos Sauvignon Blanc Argentina 2014 Bronze
Brand Phoenix First Cape Vineyards, Special Cuvée Sauvignon Blanc South Africa 2013 Bronze
Crown Cellars/Carlsberg Cono Sur Las Ondas Sauvignon Blanc Chile 2014 Bronze
Australian Vintage Nepenthe Altitude Sauvignon Blanc Australia 2014 Bronze
Viña San Pedro Tarapaca Castillo de Molina Reserva, Elqui Valley Chile 2014 Bronze
Weingut Gross Jakobi Sauvignon Blanc Austria 2013 Bronze
Miguel Torres Chile Cordillera Sauvignon Blanc Chile 2013 Bronze
Unoaked £10-£20
Craggy Range Sauvignon Blanc, Avery Vineyard, Marlborough New Zealand 2013 Gold
Saint Clair Family Estate Pioneer Black 3, 43 Degrees Sauvignon Blanc New Zealand 2014 Gold
Framingham Wines Framingham Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc New Zealand 2014 Gold
DGB Boschendal Elgin Sauvignon Blanc South Africa 2012 Gold
Cono Sur 20 Barrels Sauvignon Blanc Chile 2014 Gold
Pernod Ricard Brancott Estate Terroir Series Sauvignon Blanc New Zealand 2013 Silver
Crown Cellars/Carlsberg Invenio, Sauvignon Blanc France 2013 Silver
Bottle Green Vistamar Sepia Reserva Sauvignon Blanc Chile 2013 Silver
Andeluna Cellars Andeluna 1300 Sauvignon Blanc Argentina 2014 Silver
Matahiwi Estate Matahiwi Estate Sauvignon Blanc New Zealand 2014 Silver
Babich Wines Babich Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc New Zealand 2014 Silver
Accolade Wines Mud House Sauvignon Blanc New Zealand 2013 Silver
Nederburg Wines Nederburg Private Bin D234 Sauvignon Blanc South Africa 2014 Silver
Accolade Wines Mudhouse Woolshed Vineyard Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc New Zealand 2013 Silver
DGB Boschendal 1685 Sauvignon Blanc South Africa 2014 Silver
Pernod Ricard Brancott Estate Letter Series “B” Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc New Zealand 2013 Silver
Marisco Vineyards The King’s Favour Sauvignon Blanc New Zealand 2013 Silver
Carolina Wine Brands Viña Casablanca Nimbus Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc Chile 2013 Silver
Viña Errazuriz Max Reserva Sauvignon Blanc Chile 2014 Silver
Tarras Wines Tarras Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc New Zealand 2013 Silver
Forrest Wines Forrest Sauvignon Blanc New Zealand 2013 Silver
Saint Clair Family Estate Saint Clair Marlborough Premium Sauvignon Blanc New Zealand 2014 Silver
Weingut Gross Sauvignon Blanc Steirische Klassik Austria 2013 Silver
Diemersdal Wine Estate Diemersdal Sauvignon Blanc Reserve South Africa 2014 Silver
Diemersdal Wine Estate Diemersdal 8 Rows Sauvignon Blanc South Africa 2014 Silver

The medalists: Unoaked (continued..)

Company Wine Country Vintage Medal
Unoaked £10-£20 (cont’d)
Crown Cellars/Carlsberg Cloud Island, Sauvignon Blanc, ZGM New Zealand 2013 Bronze
Viña Garcés Silva Boya Sauvignon Blanc Chile 2013 Bronze
Cortes de Cima Cortes de Cima Sauvignon Blanc Portugal 2013 Bronze
Aresti Chile Wine Aresti Trisquel Sauvignon Blanc Chile 2014 Bronze
Accolade Wines Flagstone Free Run Sauvignon Blanc South Africa 2011 Bronze
Vinivola LA Cetto L. A. Cetto Sauvignon Blanc Mexico 2013 Bronze
Nederburg Wines Nederburg Manor House Sauvignon Blanc South Africa 2014 Bronze
Viña Quintay Q Grand Reserve Sauvignon Blanc Chile 2013 Bronze
Foucher Lebrun Pouilly Fumé “Les 2 Collines” France 2013 Bronze
Viña Garcés Silva Amayna Sauvignon Blanc Chile 2013 Bronze
Babich Wines Babich Family Estates Wakefield Downs Sauvignon Blanc New Zealand 2013 Bronze
Foucher Lebrun Sancerre Blanc “Foucher Lebrun” France 2013 Bronze
Quinta de Maipo Gran Devoción Sauvignon Blanc Chile 2013 Bronze
Spier Wines Spier 21 Gables Sauvignon Blanc South Africa 2013 Bronze
Pernod Ricard Brancott Estate Flight Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc New Zealand 2014 Bronze
Cono Sur 20 Barrels Sauvignon Blanc Chile 2013 Bronze
DGB Boschendal Sauvignon Blanc Reserve South Africa 2013 Bronze
Kingsland De Grendel Sauvignon Blanc South Africa 2014 Bronze
Spier Wines Spier 21 Gables Sauvignon Blanc South Africa 2014 Bronze
Aaldering Vineyards & Wines Aaldering Sauvignon Blanc South Africa 2013 Bronze
Paul Cluver Estates Sauvignon Blanc South Africa 2014 Bronze
Unoaked £20-£30
Blaxland Wine Group Jonathan Tolley Sauvignon Blanc, Copestick Murray Australia 2014 Bronze
Sunstone Vineyards & Winery Sauvignon Blanc USA 2013 Bronze
Unoaked £30+
Casa Vinicola Zonin Tenuta Ca’Bolani Aquilis Sauvignon Friuli Italy 2013 Bronze

The medalists: Oaked

Company Wine Name Country Vintage Medal
Oaked £10-£20
Santa Rita Estates Santa Rita Floresta Sauvignon Blanc Chile 2013 Gold
Matahiwi Estate Holly Sauvignon Blanc New Zealand 2013 Gold
D’Aria Winery The Songbird Sauvignon Blanc South Africa 2014 Silver
Te Pa Family Vineyards Te Pa Oke Sauvignon Blanc New Zealand 2012 Silver
Viña Valdivieso Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc Chile 2012 Silver
Viña Valdivieso Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc Chile 2010 Silver
Australian Vintage Nepenthe Petraea Sauvignon Blanc Australia 2013 Silver
Craggy Range Sauvignon Blanc, Te Muna Road Vineyard, Martinborough New Zealand 2013 Silver
Viña San Pedro Tarapaca Tarapacá Gran Reserva Sauvignon Blanc Chile 2013 Silver
Viña Leyda Leyda Lot 4 Sauvignon Blanc Chile 2013 Bronze
Backsberg John Martin Reserve Sauvignon Blanc South Africa 2013 Bronze
Australian Vintage Tempus Two Copper Sauvignon Blanc Australia 2014 Bronze
Oaked £20-£30
Gitton Père et Fils Sancerre Galinot France 2010 Gold
Australia West Wine Exports Larry Cherubino Pemberton Sauvignon Blanc Australia 2013 Gold
Bodegas Castell Miquel Castell Miquel Sauvignon Blanc Stairway to Heaven Spain 2013 Gold
Winetraders Bellbird Spring, Block Eight Sauvignon Blanc, Waipara New Zealand 2012 Silver
Cakebread Cellars Sauvignon Blanc USA 2013 Silver
Yarden Golan Heights Winery Yarden Sauvignon Blanc, Golan Heights Winery Israel 2013 Silver
Vinimark Reyneke Sauvignon Blanc South Africa 2013 Bronze

The medalists: Oaked

Company Wine Name Country Vintage Medal
Oaked under £10
Nederburg Wines Nederburg Winemaster’s Reserve Sauvignon Blanc South Africa 2014 Gold
Oaked £10-£20
Santa Rita Estates Santa Rita Floresta Sauvignon Blanc Chile 2013 Gold
Matahiwi Estate Holly Sauvignon Blanc New Zealand 2013 Gold
D’Aria Winery The Songbird Sauvignon Blanc South Africa 2014 Silver
Te Pa Family Vineyards Te Pa Oke Sauvignon Blanc New Zealand 2012 Silver
Viña Valdivieso Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc Chile 2012 Silver
Viña Valdivieso Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc Chile 2010 Silver
Australian Vintage Nepenthe Petraea Sauvignon Blanc Australia 2013 Silver
Craggy Range Sauvignon Blanc, Te Muna Road Vineyard, Martinborough New Zealand 2013 Silver
Viña San Pedro Tarapaca Tarapacá Gran Reserva Sauvignon Blanc Chile 2013 Silver
Viña Leyda Leyda Lot 4 Sauvignon Blanc Chile 2013 Bronze
Backsberg John Martin Reserve Sauvignon Blanc South Africa 2013 Bronze
Australian Vintage Tempus Two Copper Sauvignon Blanc Australia 2014 Bronze
Oaked £20-£30
Gitton Père et Fils Sancerre Galinot France 2010 Gold
Australia West Wine Exports Larry Cherubino Pemberton Sauvignon Blanc Australia 2013 Gold
Bodegas Castell Miquel Castell Miquel Sauvignon Blanc Stairway to Heaven Spain 2013 Gold
Winetraders Bellbird Spring, Block Eight Sauvignon Blanc, Waipara New Zealand 2012 Silver
Cakebread Cellars Sauvignon Blanc USA 2013 Silver
Yarden Golan Heights Winery Yarden Sauvignon Blanc, Golan Heights Winery Israel 2013 Silver
Vinimark Reyneke Sauvignon Blanc South Africa 2013 Bronze

The medalists: Unoaked Blends

Company Wine Name Country Medal Price
Minimum 50% Sauvignon Blanc
Santa Rita Estates Santa Rita 120 Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Chile Silver Under £10
Maison Ginestet Marquis de Chasse 2013 France Silver Under £10
Sumaridge Estate Wines Maritimus 2011 South Africa Silver £10-£20
Marchesi Antinori Conte della Vipera, Castello della Sala 2013 Italy Silver £10-£20
La Motte Wine Estate La Motte Pierneef Sauvignon Blanc 2014 South Africa Silver £10-£20
Maison Ginestet Ginestet 2013 France Bronze Under £10
Lapostolle/Berkmann Wine Cellars Casa Sauvignon Blanc 2013 Chile Bronze £10-£20

The medalists: Oaked Blends

Minimum 50% Sauvignon Blanc
Company Wine Name Country Medal Price
Miguel Torres – John E Fells Torres Fransola 2012 Spain Master £20-£30
Robert Mondavi – Accolade Wines Robert Mondavi Nappa Valley Fume Blanc 2012 USA Gold £10-£20
Château Hostens-Picant Cuvée des Demoiselles 2012 France Silver £10-£20
Jackson Family Wines Atalon, Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2013 USA Silver £10-£20
Jackson Family Wines Kendall Jackson Vintners’ Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2013 USA Silver £10-£20
Château Brown Chateau Brown 2012 France Silver £20-£30
Maison Ginestet Mascaron par Ginestet 2013 France Bronze £10-£20
Accoalde Wines Treaty Tree Reserve Sauvignon Blanc Semillon, Western Cape 2013 South Africa Bronze £10-£20
Chamlija Wines Chamlija Sauvignon Blanc 2013 Turkey Bronze £10-£20
Jackson Family Wines Matanzas Creek Winery Sauvignon Blanc Sonoma County 2013 USA Bronze £20-£30

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