The best Sauvignon Blancs from the 2017 Global Masters
While consumers love Sauvignon Blanc, many in the trade treat it with disdain. But as our annual competition shows, in the right hands, this grape can create genuinely exciting expressions – at all price points, writes Patrick Schmitt MW.
Towards the end of 2017 we held two of our biggest Global Masters tastings – the Sauvignon Blanc Masters and the Chardonnay Masters. You can read about the latter here. It is worth comparing the two grapes because they appear to show such contrasting image issues.
While Chardonnay is loved by the trade but derided by consumers, Sauvignon Blanc seems to have the opposite problem: it’s mocked by professionals, and widely adored by the public. Why? Chardonnay’s issues are discussed in our report on this year’s competition for that grape, but when it comes to Sauvignon, the reasons are many and varied. For a start, there is a misconception that this variety can’t produce great dry white wine; that it is limited in terms of style, and capped when it comes to the complexity of flavours it can produce. Furthermore, there’s a belief that Sauvignon is ill-suited to ageing in oak barrels – the traditional finishing touch for fine whites.
Add the fact that it is hugely popular – making it a staple of supermarket shelves and by-the-glass offerings in pubs and bars – and there’s a snobbery regarding the grape. In short, there’s a sense that it lacks gravitas. As with all grapes, some entry-level offerings disappoint. With Sauvignon in particular, the weakest examples can be thin, herbaceous and acidic, sometimes mixed with a touch of residual sugar – a combination that would give any grape a bad name.
But mostly, it is Sauvignon’s refreshing, and instantly recognisable pungency, even at low prices, that makes it distinctive, memorable and crowd pleasing. It has made greener characters in wine fashionable, a major development in the past decade, considering the most popular style of white at the start of this century was the creamy, buttery flavours associated with Chardonnay, particularly from the New World. And Sauvignon Blanc doesn’t just yield bright gooseberry and grapefruit flavoured youthful whites.
It can deliver a broad array of characteristics, depending on where it is grown and when it’s picked. As this year’s Masters showed, it can create an extremely appealing style of white in cooler climates, when crunchy bell pepper notes can emerge from the glass, which may not be to everyone’s taste, but certainly bring instant refreshment and bags of character to the wine.
At the other end of the spectrum, Sauvignon, particularly in warmer climates of Napa or Graves, can produce something pleasingly exotic, with notes of melon, pineapple and passion fruit, even an oily texture, which is balanced by this grape’s naturally high acidity.
Then there’s the potential for creating something finer. Here too, where old vines in great Sauvignon terroirs are coupled with skilled winemakers, the results can be astounding. Sometimes the complexity comes mainly from the site, with chalky characters mingling with citrus and lemongrass notes in the great whites of the Loire. At other times it seems to emanate from the cellar techniques, particularly the use of oak in the great Sauvignons of California or Bordeaux, where ripe fruit complements barrel-sourced vanilla flavours beautifully.
Finally, there are the blends, which highlight the potential greatness of this grape as a partner to others, particularly Semillon, but other varieties too – in this year’s tasting we sampled a wonderful wine combining Sauvignon and the native Greek grape Assyrtiko.
In short, Sauvignon, like many great white grapes of the world, can produce a disappointing result, but it can, more often than not, create something distinctive and delicious. And, importantly, Sauvignon can be used to make something fine. After all, the great whites of Bordeaux, dominated by Sauvignon, are some of the most soughtafter and expensive wines in the world – even if it’s the white Burgundy that’s currently deemed so fashionable among fine wine collectors.
If you are still unsure as to whether such analysis is accurate, look over the results from this year’s Masters, which highlight the greatness possible from this grape, and the sources of the top medallists, as well as the producers responsible for crafting the wines. Indeed, even under £10, we had some lovely wines, particularly from New Zealand, as one might expect, but also from Chile, Spain and South Africa, testament to the grape’s ability to deliver a lot of character for your cash.
Move up the price scale to the £10-£15 price band, and the regions where this grape excels become clearer. In New Zealand, it will be no surprise to see Marlborough feature regularly, while in South Africa, the tasting confirms that the Durbanville Hills is really carving out a reputation as a go-to place for Sauvignon Blanc, although it is not the only part of the Western Cape making great whites from this variety.
As for Chile, the more upmarket and nuanced examples of Sauvignon from South America do seem, consistently, to come from the Leyda Valley, where they have an appealing citrus bite and mouthwatering salty finish. Australia too, which isn’t well known for Sauvignon, is able to compete on the world stage with whites from Adelaide Hills, even if this region is most famous for delicious Chardonnay.
Over £15, it was exciting to find our first Master – the ultimate accolade in the competition. While it had the polish of a great white from Marlborough, it was from New Zealand’s Nelson region, specifically the Tasman Bay Area. Running this wine close for quality were lovely bright aromatic examples from Marlborough, made by the likes of Mud House, Babich and Kim Crawford – which all achieved Golds. But South Africa also mingled with the best, with Neethlingshof’s Jackal’s Dance netting a Gold, as did a great and relatively affordable example from the Old World: Château de Tracy – the celebrated estate of the Loire’s Pouilly Fumé.
As one might expect, the more highly priced Sauvignons from the competition had all seen varying degrees of oak influence, sometimes a subtle effect, perhaps more textural, from the use of oak in large formats, and at other times, more overt, where cream and vanilla were evident, presumably from ageing in a proportion of new oak barriques.
Among the Golds was a lovely example from Nederburg – the Young Airhawk – which represented a great entry point to a more food-friendly textural style of Sauvignon – priced between £10 and £15. But we were also excited to find a lovely wine from Turkey’s Aegean in the same price band. Over £15, the number of Golds awarded showed the quality potential of sensitive oak management with Sauvignon – and it was pleasing to see a range of regions featured, from Adelaide Hills to Columbia Valley, Wrattonbully, Sonoma, and Waipara.
Such diversity was similarly apparent at the top end, with samples over £20 gaining Golds hailing from Marlborough, Alto Adige and the Loire, while another Turkish wine came also came within a whisker of getting a Gold – the Quartz Fumé from Chamlija. Among the 100%- pure-oaked Sauvignons, it was notable to see that the Marlborough sub-region of Blind River was the source of a Master, as this particular terroir is becoming a hot spot for top-end examples, such as this flagship wine from Lawson’s Dry Hills.
As for the blends, it was thrilling to find out after the day’s tasting that one of the best wines in this category was from Greece, combining Sauvignon with Assyrtiko. The judges were also pleased to find a brilliant bargain example in the blended category, with the Domaine du Grand Mayne from south-west France picking up a Gold, despite its sub-£10 price point, while at higher prices, as in previous Sauvignon Masters tastings, Château Brown from Pessac-Léognan proved a benchmark for high quality, blended, barrel-aged Sauvignon. So, for those who think that Sauvignon is limited to creating youthful inexpensive whites, the Global Masters proved there is much more to this grape.
It can make a wide range of inexpensive wines, it can yield something bright or ripe, and it can be used to create blends and barrel-aged whites with complexity and longevity. Of course, some examples are better than others, and that’s why the Global Masters is so important – it seeks to identify the great from the good without prejudice.
In the case of Sauvignon, as this competition revealed, the best wines could hail from established regions for the grape, such as Graves, or surprise newcomers for this variety, such as Greece.
Over the following pages are the medallists from this year’s Sauvignon Blanc Masters, along with comments from the judges (who are pictured below).
100% Sauvignon Blanc Unoaked
|Rapaura Spings||Rapaura Springs Sauvignon Blanc||Marlborough||New Zealand||2017||Gold|
|Santa Helena Winery||Selección del Directorio Gran Reserva||Central Valley||Chile||2016||Gold|
|Waimea Estates||Waimea Sauvignon Blanc||Nelson||New Zealand||2017||Gold|
|Yealands Wine Group||Peter Yealands Sauvignon Blanc||Marlborough||New Zealand||2017||Silver|
|Broadland Wineries||Waipapa Bay Sauvignon Blanc||Marlborough||New Zealand||2017||Silver|
|Marqués de Cáceres||Sauvignon Blanc||Castile and León||Spain||2016||Silver|
|Yealands Wine Group||The Crossing Sauvignon Blanc||Marlborough||New Zealand||2017||Silver|
|Terra Noble||TerraNoble Reserva||Casablanca||Chile||2017||Silver|
|Yealands Wine Group||Yealands Estate Single Vineyard||Marlborough||New Zealand||2016||Silver|
|The Co-op||Irresistible Leyda Sauvignon Blanc||Leyda Valley||Chile||2017||Silver|
|VSPT Wine Group||Santa Helena Siglo de Oro Reserva||Central Valley||Chile||2017||Silver|
|Distell||Neethlingshof Sauvignon Blanc||Western Cape||South Africa||2017||Silver|
|Te Pa Family Vineyards||PA Road Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc||Marlborough||New Zealand||2017||Silver|
|Maison Marques Domaines||Rapaura Springs Sauvignon Blanc Reserve||Marlborough||New Zealand||2017||Silver|
|Lanchester Wines||Nika Tiki||Marlborough||New Zealand||2017||Silver|
|Boland Cellar||Talent & Terroir Sauvignon Blanc||Coastal||South Africa||2017||Silver|
|Iceland (Lismore Wines)||Doubtful Sound Sauvignon Blanc||Marlborough||New Zealand||2016||Silver|
|Viña Luis Felipe Edwards||Ocho Millas Sauvignon Blanc||Leyda Valley||Chile||2017||Bronze|
|Viñedos Emiliana||Novas Gran Reserva Sauvignon Blanc||San Antonio||Chile||2017||Bronze|
|Giesen Wines||Organic Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc||Marlborough||New Zealand||2016||Bronze|
|Viña Tarapacá||Tarapacá Varietal||Isla de Maipo||Chile||2017||Bronze|
|Viña Luis Felipe Edwards||ALDI Exquisite Reserva Sauvignon Blanc||Leyda Valley||Chile||2017||Bronze|
|Marisco Vineyards||Leefield Station Sauvignon Blanc||Marlborough||New Zealand||2016||Bronze|
|Distell||Nederburg Winemasters Sauvignon Blanc||Western Cape||South Africa||2017||Bronze|
|Gato Negro||9 Lives Reserve||Santiago||Chile||2017||Bronze|
|Broadland Wineries||Proudly Vegan Sauvignon Blanc||Central Valley||Chile||2017||Bronze|
|Marisco Vineyards||The Ned Sauvignon Blanc||Marlborough||New Zealand||2017||Bronze|
|Yealands Wine Group||Peter Yealands Reserve Sauvignon Blanc||Marlborough||New Zealand||2016||Bronze|
|Viña Luis Felipe Edwards||ASDA Extra Special Chilean Sauvignon Blanc||Leyda Valley||Chile||2017||Bronze|
|Yealands Wine Group||Yealands Estate Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc||Marlborough||New Zealand||2016||Bronze|
|Pernod Ricard Winemakers||Stoneleigh Sauvignon Blanc||Marlborough||New Zealand||2017||Bronze|
|Millaman||Millaman Estate Reserve Sauvignon Blanc||Curicó Valley||Chile||2016||Bronze|
|Pernod Ricard Winemakers||Brancott Estate Terroir Series Sauvignon Blanc||Marlborough||New Zealand||2016||Gold|
|Distell||Durbanville Hills Rhinofields Sauvignon Blanc||Durbanville||South Africa||2016||Gold|
|Distell||Fleur du Cap Unfiltered Sauvignon Blanc||Western Cape||South Africa||2016||Gold|
|Pernod Ricard Winemakers||Brancott Estate Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc||Marlborough||New Zealand||2017||Gold|
|Aresti Chile Wine||Trisquel Sauvignon Blanc||Leyda Valley||Chile||2017||Gold|
|Viña Luis Felipe Edwards||Marea Valle de Leyda Sauvignon Blanc||Leyda Valley||Chile||2017||Gold|
|Invivo Wines||Graham Norton’s Own Sauvignon Blanc||Marlborough||New Zealand||2017||Gold|
|Pernod Ricard Winemakers||Brancott Estate Letter Series ‘B’ Sauvignon Blanc||Marlborough||New Zealand||2016||Gold|
|Viña MontGras||Amaral Sauvignon Blanc||Leyda Valley||Chile||2017||Silver|
|Viña Luis Felipe Edwards||Gran Reserva Family Selection Sauvignon Blanc||Leyda Valley||Chile||2017||Silver|
|Klein Constantia||Klein Constantia Sauvignon Blanc||Cape Town||South Africa||2016||Silver|
|Lawson’s Dry Hills||Blind River Sauvignon Blanc||Marlborough||New Zealand||2017||Silver|
|Wakefield/Taylors Wines||Wakefield/Taylors Sauvignon Blanc||Adelaide Hills||Australia||2017||Silver|
|Zonte’s Footstep||Excalibur Sauvignon Blanc||Adelaide||Australia||2017||Silver|
|Bodega Trapiche||Trapiche Costa Y Pampa Sauvignon Blanc||Chapadmalal||Argentina||2016||Silver|
|Pernod Ricard Winemakers||Stoneleigh Rapaura Series Sauvignon Blanc||Marlborough||New Zealand||2016||Silver|
|Australian Vintage||Nepenthe Altitude Sauvignon Blanc||Adelaide Hills||Australia||2016||Silver|
|Giesen Wines||Ara Single Estate Sauvignon Blanc||Marlborough||New Zealand||2016||Silver|
|Invivo Wines||Invivo Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc||Marlborough||New Zealand||2017||Silver|
|Southern Right||Southern Right Sauvignon Blanc||Walker Bay||South Africa||2017||Silver|
|Pernod Ricard Winemakers||Stoneleigh Latitude Sauvignon Blanc||Marlborough||New Zealand||2017||Silver|
|Nitida||Sauvignon Blanc||Durbanville||South Africa||2016||Silver|
|Lawson’s Dry Hills||Lawson’s Dry Hills Sauvignon Blanc||Marlborough||New Zealand||2017||Silver|
|Kim Crawford Wines||Kim Crawford Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc||Marlborough||New Zealand||2017||Silver|
|Kavaklıdere||Côtes d’Avanos Sauvignon Blanc||Cappadocia||Turkey||2016||Silver|
|Cantina Bolzano||Mock Sauvignon Alto Adige DOC||South Tyrolean||Italy||2016||Silver|
|Viña Ventisquero||Grey Sauvignon Blanc||Huasco Valley||Chile||2017||Bronze|
|Kavaklıdere||Egeo Sauvignon Blanc||Aegean||Turkey||2016||Bronze|
|Accolade Wines||Waipara Hills Sauvignon Blanc||Marlborough||New Zealand||2016||Bronze|
|Yealands Wine Group||Yealands Estate Single Block L5||Marlborough||New Zealand||2016||Bronze|
|Peregrine Wines||Mohua Sauvignon Blanc||Marlborough||New Zealand||2015||Bronze|
|Babich Wines||Babich Family Estates Headwaters Organic||Marlborough||New Zealand||2016||Bronze|
|Te Pa Family Vineyards||Te Pa Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc||Marlborough||New Zealand||2017||Bronze|
|Linton Park Wines||Linton Park Sauvignon Blanc||Wellington||South Africa||2017||Bronze|
|Iceland (La Cave des Vins de Sancerre)||Sancerre||Sancerre||France||2016||Bronze|
|Distell||Durbanville Hills Sauvignon Blanc||Durbanville||South Africa||2017||Bronze|
|De Bortoli Wines||Deen Vat 2 Sauvignon Blanc||Riverina||Australia||2016||Bronze|
100% Sauvignon Blanc Unoaked
|£10 – £15 continued|
|Babich Wines||Babich Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc||Marlborough||New Zealand||2017||Bronze|
|Marisco Vineyards||The King’s Favour Sauvignon Blanc||Waihopai Valley||New Zealand||2017||Bronze|
|Flagstone||Free Run Sauvignon Blanc||Cape South Coast||South Africa||2016||Bronze|
|Lawson’s Dry Hills||Reserve Sauvignon Blanc||Marlborough||New Zealand||2017||Bronze|
|£15 – £20|
|Falcon Ridge Estate||Falcon Ridge Estate Sauvignon Blanc||Tasman Bay||New Zealand||2015||Master|
|Accolade Wines||Mud House Single Vineyard The Woolshed||Marlborough||New Zealand||2017||Gold|
|Kim Crawford||Small Parcels Spitfire Marlborough||Marlborough||New Zealand||2017||Gold|
|Distell||Neethlingshof Jackals Dance||Western Cape||South Africa||2017||Gold|
|Babich Wines||Babich Family Estates Headwaters Organic||Marlborough||New Zealand||2017||Gold|
|Château de Tracy||Château de Tracy||Loire||France||2016||Gold|
|Viña Casa Silva||Casa Silva Cool Coast||Colchagua Valley||Chile||2017||Silver|
|Alpha Estate||Alpha Estate Sauvignon Blanc||Amyndeon||Greece||2016||Silver|
|Château de Tracy||Mademoiselle de T||Loire||France||2016||Silver|
|Yealands Wine Group||Yealands Estate Single Block S1||Marlborough||New Zealand||2015||Silver|
|Viña y Bodega Estampa||Del Viento Sauvignon Blanc||Colchagua Valley||Chile||2017||Silver|
|Klein Constantia||Klein Constantia Metis Sauvignon Blanc||Cape Town||South Africa||2016||Silver|
|KRSMA Estates||KRSMA Estates Sauvignon Blanc||Hampi Hills Karnataka India||2017||Bronze|
|Accolade Wines||Mud House Sub Regional Rapaura||Marlborough||New Zealand||2016||Bronze|
|Château Los Boldos||Grande Réserve Sauvignon Blanc||Cachapoal Valley||Chile||2017||Bronze|
|Viña Ventisquero||Kalfu Sumpai Sauvignon Blanc||Huasco Valley||Chile||2017||Bronze|
|£20 – £30|
|Château de Tracy||Château de Tracy||Loire||France||2015||Master|
|Bodegas Salentein||Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc||Mendoza||Argentina||2016||Gold|
|Cono Sur||Cono Sur Reserva Especial||Casablanca Valley||Chile||2017||Silver|
|Winemaking Tasmania||Terra Verde Sauvignon Blanc||Perth||Australia||2017||Silver|
|Viña Casa Silva||Lago Ranco Sauvignon Blanc||Austral||Chile||2017||Bronze|
100% Sauvignon Blanc Oaked
|Lanchester Wines||Waitonga Falls||Horowhenua||New Zealand||2016||Silver|
|Frescobaldi||Sauvignon Blanc||Friuli-Venezia Giulia||Italy||2016||Bronze|
|Finca Las Moras||Alma Mora Sauvignon Blanc||San Juan||Argentina||2017||Bronze|
|£10 – £15|
|Distell||Nederburg Young Airhawk||Western Cape||South Africa||2016||Gold|
|Entoria Wine Cellars||Organic Sauvignon Blanc||Wairarapa||New Zealand||2016||Silver|
|Yealands Wine Group||Yealands Winemakers Reserve||Marlborough||New Zealand||2015||Silver|
|Babich Wines||Babich Black Label Marlborough||Marlborough||New Zealand||2017||Silver|
|Kavaklıdereı||Egeo Fume Blanc||Aegean||Turkey||2016||Silver|
|Australian Vintage||Nepenthe The Luminary Sauvignon Blanc||Adelaide Hills||Australia||2017||Bronze|
|Babich Wines||Babich Black Label Marlborough||Marlborough||New Zealand||2016||Bronze|
|Yealands Wine Group||Yealands Winemakers Reserve||Marlborough||New Zealand||2016||Bronze|
|Direct Wines Le Chai au Quai||Le Grand Chai Reserve Blanc||Bordeaux||France||2016||Bronze|
|Yealands Wine Group||The Crossings Wild Sauvignon Blanc||Marlborough||New Zealand||2016||Bronze|
|De Bortoli Wines||Villages Sauvignon Blanc||Yarra Valley||Australia||2015||Bronze|
|£15 – £20|
|Australian Vintage||Tempus Two Copper Sauvignon Blanc||Adelaide Hills||Australia||2017||Gold|
|Seven Hills Winery||Sauvignon Blanc Columbia Valley||Columbia Valley||USA||2016||Gold|
|Terre à Terre||Down to Earth Sauvignon Blanc||Wrattonbully||Australia||2016||Gold|
|Jackson Family Wines||Captûre Tradition Sonoma County||Sonoma Valley||USA||2016||Gold|
|Greystone Wines||Greystone Barrel Fermented||Waipara Valley||New Zealand||2016||Gold|
|De Grendel Wines||De Grendel Koetshuis Sauvignon Blanc||Western Cape||South Africa||2016||Silver|
|Australian Vintage||Nepenthe Petraea Sauvignon Blanc||Adelaide Hills||Australia||2016||Silver|
|Klein Constantia||Klein Constantia Perdeblokke||Cape Town||South Africa||2016||Silver|
|Cantina Bolzano||DOC Alto Adige Sauvignon Riserva||Alto Adige||Italy||2015||Silver|
|Château Doisy Daëne||Château Doisy Daëne||Bordeaux||France||2016||Bronze|
|Te Pa Family Vineyards||Te Pa Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc Oke||Marlborough||New Zealand||2017||Bronze|
|£20 – £30|
|Lawson’s Dry Hills||Blind River Tekau Sauvignon Blanc||Marlborough||New Zealand||2016||Master|
|Marisco Vineyards||Craft Series Pride and Glory||Marlborough||New Zealand||2013||Gold|
|Colterenzio||Sauvignon Blanc La Foa DOC||Alto Adige||Italy||2015||Gold|
|Chamlija Wines||Quartz Fumé||Kirklareli||Turkey||2016||Silver|
|Terre à Terre||Crayères Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc||Wrattonbully||Australia||2015||Silver|
|Cantina LaVis||Vich Sauvignon Trentino DOC||Trentino||Italy||2015||Silver|
|Giesen Wines||The Fuder Matthews Lane||Marlborough||New Zealand||2012||Bronze|
|£30 – £50|
|Château de Tracy||Haute Densité||Loire||France||2014||Gold|
|Château de Tracy||101 Rangs||Loire||France||2014||Silver|
Blend (min 50% Sauvignon Blanc) Unoaked
|De Grendel Wines||De Grendel Sauvignon Blanc||Durbanville||South Africa||2017||Gold|
|Copestick Murray (Black Cottage)||I heart Sauvignon Blanc||Marlborough||New Zealand||2017||Gold|
|Klein Constantia||Glen Dirk Sauvignon Blanc||Cape Town||South Africa||2016||Gold|
|Aresti Chile Wine||Bellavista Reserva Sauvignon Blanc||Curico Valley||Chile||2017||Bronze|
|Deakin Estate||Deakin Estate Sauvignon Blanc||Murray Darling||Australia||2017||Bronze|
|£10 – £15|
|Accolade Wines||Mud House Sauvignon Blanc||Marlborough||New Zealand||2016||Silver|
|Domaine du Grand Mayne||Grand Mayne Sauvignon Blanc||South West||France||2016||Silver|
|De Bortoli Wines||Windy Peak Semillon Sauvignon Blanc||Yarra Valley||Australia||2017||Bronze|
|Distell||Fleur du Cap Sauvignon Blanc||Western Cape||South Africa||2017||Bronze|
|£15 – £20|
|Alpha Estate||Alpha Axia Assyrtiko||Amyndeon||Greece||2015||Gold|
Blend (min 50% Sauvignon Blanc) Oaked
|Domaine du Grand Mayne||Réserve Sauvignon Sémillon||South West||France||2015||Gold|
|Hermanuspietersfontein||Stertswaai||Western Cape||South Africa||2015||Silver|
|£15 – £20|
|Man O’War||Estate Sauvignon Blanc||Waiheke||New Zealand||2016||Silver|
|Flagstone||Flagstone Treaty Tree||Elim||South Africa||2016||Bronze|
|£20 – £30|
|Château Brown||Château Brown||Bordeaux||France||2016||Gold|
|Morgenster||Estate White||Western Cape||South Africa||2014||Silver|
|Cape Point Vineyards||Isliedh||Cape Peninsula||South Africa||2016||Bronze|
What the judges thought: Michelle Cherutti-Kowal MW
“Overall the wines were consistent. A few wines under £10 were good quality for the money – simple but fruity with balanced acidity.
It was hard to see the difference in quality with the wines of £10-£15, and some were simple and lacked concentration and/or had real underripe characters typical for the grape when it has been over-cropped.
There was better quality, complexity and concentration among the wines over £15, and certainly enough for you to understand why you were paying a premium. The same was true again for the wines over £20.
While there were fewer-than-expected oaked examples, a growing trend in Sauvignon Blanc winemaking, as the results show, when done well, oak adds considerable complexity to the grape.”
What the judges thought: Jonathan Pedley MW
“From a quality and style point of view the line-up was a real mixed bag. A significant proportion of the wines were correct but unexciting: failing to win a medal or just scraping a bronze. Faults aside, reaching first base with Sauvignon Blanc (clean as a whistle, up front varietal fruit, vibrant acidity) is relatively straightforward. However, moving on to something finer and more complex remains a big challenge. The techniques are known (riper fruit, blending with Semillon, oak ageing, lees work) but are hard to get right in the context of Sauvignon Blanc. Château Brown 2016 achieved it beautifully, but few others came close.
New Zealand, and Marlborough in particular, remained pre-eminent in delivering a good Sauvignon Blanc across the price spectrum. There were also good examples from South Africa, Australia, France (Loire and Bordeaux) and most surprisingly, Turkey (our antepenultimate wine “Quartz”).
I am afraid that there were a large number of mediocre wines from Chile (over cropped? wrong clones? wrong climate in some areas?). Some of the warmer climate Sauvignon Blancs (Israel, South Africa, California and Australia) did give the impression that their finer aromatics had been ‘burnt off’.
The use of oak on the “Fumé Blanc” style wines was definitely done better than in the past. I think that winemakers have come to realise that for the vanilla oak notes to integrate into the wine the Sauvignon Blanc fruit has to be riper and richer.
In other words getting the oak to marry with yellow plum and green melon aromas (the riper end of the spectrum) is much better than trying to make the wood work with herbaceous and cooking apple aromas (the greener end of the spectrum).”
About the competition
In a crowded wine-competition arena, the drinks business Global Sauvignon Masters stands out for its assessment of wines purely by grape variety rather than by region. Divided only by price bracket and, for ease of judging, whether the style was oaked or unoaked, the blind-tasting format allowed wines to be assessed without prejudice about their country of origin.
The best wines were awarded medals which ranged from Bronze through to Gold, as well as Master, the ultimate accolade, given only to exceptional wines in the tasting. The wines were judged by a cherry-picked group of Masters of Wine and sommeliers on 23 November at Baltic Restaurant in Southwark in London.
This report only features the medal-winners.