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Sauvignon: ‘the grape that wine snobs cannot bear’

Name-dropping wine lovers may loathe Sauvignon Blanc, but it’s just as important as highbrow Pinot Noir, according to Oz Clarke.

Sauvignon Blanc is the grape variety that wine snobs cannot bare, according to broadcaster Oz Clarke. Picture credit:

The opinion was expressed by the British wine writer and broadcaster at this month’s International Sauvignon Blanc Celebration in New Zealand, which followed the Central Otago Pinot Celebration, which Clarke had also attended.

“Sauvignon Blanc is the grape variety that wine snobs cannot bear,” he began, when addressing the 300 delegates at the three-day Sauvignon event in Marlborough at the start February.

“But Sauvignon Blanc is just as important as Pinot Noir in terms of giving pleasure to countless millions of wine drinkers around the world,” he stated.

Indeed, he said that Sauvignon was “more important” than Pinot for people with “little wine knowledge” who could “revel in the sheer delight of this lovely affordable drink.”

Continuing the comparison between the two grapes, Clarke commented, “Pinot Noir is about exercising the intellectual talents of winemakers… it is a self-absorbing obsessive world with a lot of debate, and not enough laughter, but Sauvignon Blanc is not that kind of grape: the best Sauvignon doesn’t have to be expensive; it doesn’t have to be made in intellectually exhausting way; it doesn’t have to be difficult to understand.”

For Clarke, “If the first mouthful [of Sauvignon] doesn’t bring a smile and encourage a second gulp then it’s not doing its job properly; its job is to amuse, encourage wit and laughter – and not to invite a discussion on the minutiae about the way it was made.”

While red winemakers are on an “endless hunt for that extra dimension of flavour or texture to entice wine connoisseurs,” said Clarke, when it comes to Sauvignon Blanc, “One of its greatest strengths is its beguiling simplicity”.

Notably, Clarke also said that Sauvignon Blanc was rare in its ability to encourage the wine world to glorify greenness – which is usually declared a weakness.

“Sauvignon’s greatest appeal lies in its slightly under-ripe citrus flavours in world gone mad for ripeness and even over-ripeness.”

Concluding, he said, “Sauvignon Blanc revels in the cool side; the green side.”

The International Sauvignon Blanc Celebration comprised a three-day event from 1-3 February designed to explore the stylistic diversity of wines made from the grape. Other speakers included wine writers Robert Joseph and Matt Kramer, who also considered the characteristics of Sauvignon Blanc, and praised the variety for its popular and distinctive nature, as well as its dependability.

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