Kramer: There is no culture of Sauvignon Blanc in the world

American wine critic Matt Kramer kicked off the Sauvignon 2019 Celebration in Marlborough last week with a characteristically controversial speech in which he claimed there is no culture of Sauvignon Blanc anywhere in the world.

American wine critic Matt Kramer believes there is no culture of Sauvignon Blanc anywhere in the world

The first keynote speaker to take to the podium during the three-day event, Kramer stated that the biggest challenge facing Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc was the fact that there was no culture around the grape in any of the world’s leading wine regions.

“New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is the most preposterous, unpredictable success story in the history of wine. You took the world by storm with lightening in a bottle. No one has achieved the same thing in the last 40 years, not even Napa. There’s a sense of impatience, but in wine time you only started last week.

Marlborough boasts 23,000 hectares of Sauvignon Blanc

“The future of New Zealand Sauvignon lies in getting a premium, as a commodity wine is a race to the bottom, which you don’t want and can’t afford to do. There is no culture of Sauvignon Blanc anywhere in the world, which is your biggest challenge in terms of being able to command a premium for your wines.

“There’s a culture of Pinot Noir, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese, but no culture of Sauvignon Blanc. You have the scale and capital, a distinction of place, 23,000 hectares of vines, and an ability to market the product, but you don’t have the advantage of a culture of Sauvignon Blanc, and without it you can’t command a premium as you can’t go beyond your culture,” Kramer said.

While many may argue that the Loire Valley has successfully built a Sauvignon Blanc culture, particularly in Sancerre, Kramer was quick to dismiss the idea.

“There is no culture of Sauvignon in Sancerre, nor in Bordeaux or Friuli. They didn’t grow Sauvignon Blanc in Sancerre until after phylloxera – before that it was Pinot Noir, Gamay and Chasselas in the ground.

“Pinot became too expensive, so producers in Sancerre turned to Sauvignon Blanc and made it as a commodity wine. They never created a culture there.

“They have a Burgundian vision in Sancerre of small vineyards but there are no stories of monks and kings,” Kramer said. “Now, for the first time, Marlborough is creating a culture of Sauvignon Blanc. When this culture emerges, producers will then be able to command a premium for their wines,” he added.

At the inaugural Sauvignon Blanc Celebration in 2016, Kramer said that Marlborough Sauvignon producers were suffering from a “midlife crisis”.

7 Responses to “Kramer: There is no culture of Sauvignon Blanc in the world”

  1. Charles Crawfurd says:

    I am amazed that people pay good money for people like this to stand up and talk such utter rubbish! Of course Sauvignon Blanc has a ‘culture’ (whatever he means by that!). It may not be as widespread as Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah/Shiraz but is Mr Kramer seriously trying to suggest that Sauvignon Blanc has not created a reputation as one of the world’s key grape varieties thanks in particular to New Zealand and the Loire but not forgetting fine examples in Chile and South Africa too? The length of time a variety has been planted somewhere has only a very little to do with the so called ‘culture’ as New Zealand has shown. Neither does the length of time it has been planted in the Central Vineyards of the Loire have much relevance (in any event I think he is wrong in stating it was not grown there pre-Phylloxera.
    I imagine the Kiwis were not overly impressed either by what he said or his manners in saying it in the home of arguable to world’s finest exponents of the variety!

  2. David Creighton says:

    so, sancerre only started SB after phylloxera – wasn’t that 150 years ago? seems like long enough to qualify as a ‘culture’ to me. they don’t have kings or monks – NZ does? me, i’ll do whatever it takes to avoid the evill spirit of methoxypyrazine. rubbish for sure.

  3. Nigel Greening says:

    I’d say that Sauvignon Blanc has created a different kind of culture, one that is more of our time. It isn’t based on a valley or a region, but in thousands of wine bars, restaurants, kitchens and back gardens around the world and linked by the culture of social media. It is a culture of bringing together the ideas of beverage and wine; a very distinctive and powerful flavour, recognisable at one sip, shared as a social value or almost a tribal ritual.

    It’s a 21st century culture, not an 18th century one. But no less valid for it.

  4. Craig says:

    No, I think Kramer is right, more a “cola” lifestyle than a culture really. It’s the Claytons Wine…….the wine that people who” don’t drink wine” drink.

  5. paul white says:

    Kramer is projecting from a point of ignorance. I’ve been judging every year for last 10 at Mondial Sauvignon Blanc, which moves around SB focused regions (Bordeaux Loire, Rueda, Austria…) and this March is in Friuli. Each year 50 judges from 25 countries taste SB from as many countries and many more regions within. The culture is growing massively in size, quality and maturity. Not unlike Oregon’s Pinot culture has grown from 1970s. I cut my teeth on the first wines Mondavi tagged as Sauvignon Blanc back in the 1970s and closely observed the first Kiwi Savvys when they appeared out of nowhere in the UK in mid-1980s (Kramer being American wouldn’t have caught on to these until the 00s), and I’m now being staggered by the ultra-pure, vineyard designated Austrian Sauvignons of today (which sell at eye-watering prices). Sauvignon has the same capacity to create a lens to terroir as any of the grapes mentioned above and it is in the midst of illustrating those potentials globally. I’m sure Kramer will eventually cotton on to this as well. He ought to check out the grape’s come back in our shared home state of Oregon.

  6. Valerio Vaccari says:

    You really should post everyone’s comments. Mine was never posted.

  7. Mr. Kramer should have first defined what he means by Sauvignon culture, why is it necessary for a wine region to prosper, and how can it be built (apart from creating legends of kings, monks and hobbits). Support by some hard data could have helped as well. I wonder how people like this manages to be paid for speaking such useless nonsense.

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