I wrote a thing for the Lady a few months ago about how the best way to impress fellow wine bores is not through wines that you like but wines that you don’t. Anyone who has ever been on date will know that often the moments you click are when you agree on something you hate. I thought the ultimate thing to dislike was Pinotage but I was wrong. Pinotage is too clumsy, too easy a target. It’s like trying to impress a muso by saying that you don’t like Simply Red. No, the grape that all wine bores dislike is Sauvignon Blanc.
This grape reminds me of a much-loved screen actor noted for bringing a touch of class to all his films, perhaps a Michael Caine or a Johnny Depp, who then ruins his reputation by doing Jaws: The Revenge or all those awful Pirates of the Carribean films. Just so with SB, all those lovely Sancerres lost in a sea of Oyster Bays (or indeed indifferent over-priced Sancerres.) People start to doubt whether SB was any good in the first place, weren’t those flavours always a little obvious, a little one note? Did it really deserve an Oscar for Hannah & her Sisters?
Of course the general public still love Michael Caine, sorry I mean Sauvignon Blanc. It’s the grape of choice for most middle-class families (I have no actual research to back this up.) And this gets to the root of why we wine snobs despise SB, it’s just too popular and there’s nothing new to say about it. I used to be one of these people until I started going to regular tastings and realised quite how good this grape can be. Here’s two that recently impressed me:
Dourthe Sauvignon Blanc La Grande Cuvée 2011 (£7.99 Waitrose)
I can’t begin to describe how unexcited I was when I was sent this bottle. I opened it at work and shared it out. Everyone took a sip and said how good it was. They weren’t wrong, for something that is made in vast quantities it is really good. It’s extremely crisp and citric with some green peppers on the nose and then a little creaminess on the finish. Shows how good cheap white Bordeaux can be.
Zondernaam Sauvignon Blanc 2011 (Co-op £9.99)
A big step up from the Dourthe, this has smoky smell that brings to mind the best of the Loire rather than South Africa. In the mouth it’s very dry with fragrance and that difficult-to-describe depth of flavour that wine writers describe as minerality. Real class and a long finish, this is the wine to give to someone who’s sick of those brash, tropical fruit Sauvignon Blancs. It might even convert the wine bores.