Gear up; the summers this year will be villainous. The heat will blaze through those thick bedroom windows, steep in to your AC-ed office cabin, make your day-long roadside-parked car burn like an oven, and imagine driving it back home after a long day. In such heat, what can deliver solace to your parched throat and is a chilled glass of refreshing wine. Push away those oaky whites and transport the tannic reds to the cellars. It’s the most definite season for Sauvignon Blanc.
LET’S TALK SAUVIGNON BLANC
Sauvignon Blanc is an aromatic variety making wines with euphoric aromas of asparagus, lime zest, green apple skin, gooseberries, capsicum, eucalyptus, and white pepper, and provides tongue-tingling pungency and thrillingly refreshing spark with a charmingly structured light body, making it an easy-sipping aperitif. Oak doesn’t really make best pals with it. It can hinder its vivacious vibrancy, however, some brave-hearted winemakers do let their skills rule and have them sit in the same bottle. Its mouth-watering under-ripe acidity, minerally mouthfeel, feather-light body, and eye-twitching green and citrus notes also make it the ‘perfect aperitif’. And when moving to the dinner table, just go ahead and pair it with anything on the menu. Such is its versatility with gastronomic dishes that it almost a celestial matrimony.
OLD VS NEW SAUVIGNON BLANC
However, the jury is split on this decades-old debate about the likability of the varietal itself. Some find it linear, one-dimensional, and somewhat repetitive in its taste and wine-style (like my foreman does). The others adore it for the same reason, how it’s constantly identical and for some, a safe bet in what can be expected every time your pick one from the shelf. What is also admirable is the grape’s ability to dominate, arm-twist, and challenge the winemaker’s skills and flair to put it in its best frame. It is a tough one to grow and tougher to produce.
WHERE DID IT COME FROM?
Foggy beliefs of its origin marking somewhere between Loire Valley and South-West France cannot be denied. Although, its guardians did their best to promote the varietal, however, their legislations usually bar them from mentioning the varietal’s name on the label. Given the already established dominance of Burgundian whites, it receives a major competition. It also led to its snail-speed growth in its repertoire in the European markets then. Although delayed yet, quite dominantly then, Sancerre and Pouilly Fumè emerged as the synonyms of scrupulously made Sauvignons. Bordeaux’s version is mostly blended with Semillon, and telling the varietal one from lot is inconceivable. Given the French winemaking philosophy of marrying various grapes to produce a blended wine, single varietal Sauvignon Blanc had to work extra hard to carve its niche.
SAUVIGNON BLANC ACROSS THE WORLD
And while the French were busy sorting the labelling ambiguities, its second home was under-construction in New Zealand’s Southern Island. In my belief, it is here, in Marlborough, that its true references can be found – clean, sturdy, greens aromatics, varietal, purely refreshing, and, at times, soul-touching. Amongst other styles, the proficient Australian version from the Adelaide Hills, and the Californian simulation of the oak-kissed, smoky Pouilly Fumè, here christened, quite unintelligently, Fumè Blanc, have gained an international acceptance over-time.
Having said that, the most noticeable and key emerging style hails from South African Western Cape region. Finally, although by no measure the least, the adolescence-stuck Indian Sauvignon Blanc are finally maturing in stature, making their mark locally. The boredom of generally off-dry Chenin Blanc and over-oaked Chardonnay is now finding relief in the purity and freshness of Sauvignon Blanc. Our desi Sauvignon Blancs are now being appreciated globally, impressing not only by the consumers but also by the jury at international wine competitions and awards.
I’m a Sauvignon Blanc lover and I will stick to it this time the heat wave tries to splatter me with its monstrosity. Next time you’re parched and are looking for a thirst-quencher, try some of these wines. Last word of caution, serve them only one way – extra chilled.
2012 Henri Bourgeois Pouilly Fumè, Loire Valley, FRANCE
INR3620 – The Cellar, DLF Emporio, Delhi
A great wine, with matured old-school charm. If you’re seeking a change from its alter-ego, New World style, this is the one to start your Loire Valley learning from. Classically stylish wine with notes of under-ripe white fruits, chalky minerality, hint smoky edges from the dusty oak contact, and a ripe lime citrus tang. Tend with caution, it is addictive, and can leave the pockets empty if indulgence takes over. Serve it with cold cuts, (raw) seafood and white fish preparations, and garden salads with cheese shavings. It can age and turn in to a complex beauty deserving a special occasion.
2013 Saint Clair, Marlborough, NEW ZEALAND
INR3415 – Godrej Natures Basket, Mumbai. Also, www.thewinekart.com
Saint Clair’s is a good example to set a benchmark for the New Zealand’s Sauvignon Blanc template. A good mix of playfulness from the zippy acidity and white floral notes and well-supported seriousness of under-ripe gooseberries and green bell pepper, finishing on a crisp and well rounded note. It ticks all boxes for a good wine but itself, and will be tad unreal to not like. Can’t go wrong in pairing it with oysters, shellfish, and lime and coriander dressed prawns. Also try it with soft and semi-hard cheeses.
2013 Sileni, Marlborough, NEW ZEALAND
INR2343 – Godrej Natures Basket, Mumbai
Rarely the Indian shelves see a value-for-money New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, they are made to be expensive. Sileni is a must-have, not only for its quaff-ability, but also affordability. Amongst the easy-drinking tipples, it allures by concocting pulpy fruity notes of pear, guava, and ripe peaches with herbaceous and grassy touches and generous acidity, finishing on a floral-lifted note, thus filling the spectrum of flavours and finer nuances. It pairs exceptionally well with stir-fried vegetables, Thai green curry, spaghetti Aglio-e-Olio Peperoncino, and cold cuts.
2013 MAN Vintners, Western Cape, SOUTH AFRICA (Good Food Star)
INR1875 – Reliance Mart, Mumbai.
Africans find pride in their Chenin Blanc, but this one breaks this orthodox notion. Loaded with heaps of gently extracted green notes of under-ripe gooseberries, asparagus, spicy white pepper, soft eucalyptus, and a crunchy hint of grainy chalky minerality. The acidity does the trick but binding it all together and lifting the wine to an admirable stature. It’s the one that doesn’t make you work too hard to fall in for it. A perfect sushi wine, also can try with Indian vegetarian and cream-based curries.
2013 Fratelli Vineyard, Akluj, INDIA
INR620, Delhi and INR670, Mumbai – Leading retail stores
Probably the only consistent and eminently famed Indian Sauvignon Blanc worth betting your money on. Biting tang complimented by the aromatics of sweet lime, pear, lime zest, honey dew melon, and white asparagus. Hints of tomato shrubs also add an element of complexity to this rather approachable drop. A beautifully crafted Indian gem that brings value-for-money as an added advantage to its offering. Cold cuts, creamy pasta dishes, grilled chicken dishes, and perfect match for asparagus risotto.
2012 d’Arenberg Broken Fishplate, Adelaide Hills, AUSTRALIA
INR2820 – The Cellar, DLF Emporio, Delhi
An Iconic winery that represents the true spirit of Australia in every wine it produces. Intelligent story-telling is the foremost attraction, but the wine leaves no stone unturned in living up to the excitement built from it. A well-balanced, gracious, and harmonious wine with a masculine structure and medium body that makes it a preferred choice to pair with your gastronomic treats. Trust its name and pair it with a pan-seared Sea Bass, or a steamed Basa. It also works well with sizzling Gambas of green vegetables, olives, and garlic.
2013 Santa Rita 120 Sauvignon Blanc, Central Valley, CHILE
INR 1674 – Juben Wines, Mumbai
My recent favourite amongst the Chilean brigade. Said to be the biggest producer of Sauvignons in the world, Chile has some really discerning drops to suit every palate and pocket. This is the pick from the ‘energise me, impress me’ section and is quite a delectable vinous indulgence. Smartly-made, well-balanced and rounded wine, a must have for your selection this summer. Salted goat cheese tart, tomato basil and bocconcini salad, and potato gnocchi.
2012 KRSMA Sauvignon Blanc, Bengaluru, INDIA
INR 750 – Madhuloka Wines, Bengaluru
Recently launched wines that are setting a definitive fine wine trend in the Southern markets. KRSMA is an impressive addition to the India wine offering. The aromatic nosing provides a great start with some pear drops and mint toffee notes. The acidity is rife, juicy too, but never green or aggressive. It is filled with the varietal character and structure of a well-made New World Sauvignon Blanc, and with some ageing and aeration, it opens up to be more than just a well-made wine. A good pairing with the southern-style, curry-leaves-tempered gravy, chicken Malabar, and surprisingly enough, Shahi Paneer.