Why do you like Sauvignon Blanc? Because it’s fruity? Fresh? Readily available? Does what it says on the tin? In reality, not all Sauvignon Blancs are created equal, something that could be said for every grape variety. And that’s no bad thing. After all, do you really want a homogenous product that tastes exactly the same, no matter where it is from or how it is produced? Alright, maybe with baked beans. Wine is wonderful, natural and occasionally less than perfect, but even those imperfections can be interesting.
A Matter of Taste
If you’re a fan of Sauvignon Blanc, then you might well enjoy the ripe, tropical fruit flavours (think passion fruit, mango and pineapple) that you get from some New World versions. If you’re a Sauvignon-phobe then these characteristics could well have you reaching for the spittoon (or maybe just shutting your eyes and gulping quickly).
Sauvignon Blanc, as with any grape, produces very different styles in different regions. The grape’s homeland of the Loire Valley is one of Europe’s most northerly wine regions, producing wines which can be elegant, mineral and sometimes downright austere. At the other end of the spectrum, some Marlborough styles like to give you a totally tropical blast of richness. These differences are influenced by everything from climate and soil to winemaking techniques.
The Cape Crusader
So where does South Africa come into all this? With a winemaking history that stretches back to the 1600s, it doesn’t always seem apt to describe the country as a New World producer, although the heat of the sun and the experimental approach to winemaking helps to re-enforce this terminology. The style of the wines often sits half-way between the rich, ripe fruit of the New World and the more restrained character of European wines, although even here, the lines are becoming blurred.
Our Wine of the Week is the Edgebaston Sauvignon Blanc. Edgebaston is the brainchild of David Finlayson, who manages this 22-hectare estate in Stellenbosch (in case you were wondering, the winery is named after his mother’s birthplace). It is telling that David undertook part of his winemaking training at Château Margaux in Bordeaux. He adds a dash of Semillon to the wine (as do the Bordelais), giving depth and structure to the mid-palate. The wine has loads of character, marrying citrus and grassy notes, and a palate which balances mouth-watering ripe grapefruit and taut mineral flavours to pin-point precision.
It does bridge that Sauvignon gap rather nicely. It has the ripe fruit and fresh acidity you’d expect from Sauvignon but with a richer, honeyed palate. Push a glass of the Edgebaston Sauvignon Blanc on someone who proclaims to ‘hate’ Sauvignon, and you might just convert them. It is more of a ‘food wine’ than your average SB, so pair it with seafood, aromatic Thai spices or that classic pairing of goat’s cheese. Its the ideal wine for fresh Spring days and the first chance for an alfresco dinner. Just don’t forget a jacket.
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