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.
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.
“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”.