Wine’s most surprising grape might just be Sauvignon Blanc, a parent of Cabernet Sauvignon. Initially a rather quiet grape, after being planted in New Zealand in the 1970s, it soon made wines of screaming pungency and raciness. Marlborough Sauvignon is now one of the world’s most distinctive kinds of wine.
It’s also a divisive one. One of the flavour compounds in Sauvignon Blanc, part of the class of the easily detectable flavours known as methoxypyrazines, has been described as “cat’s pee,” an analogy surely designed just to turn people off, like substituting “manure” for the wine term, “barnyard.” The tastier and more accurate descriptors would be “blackcurrant bud” or “boxwood,” words for the smells released by the blackcurrant bush.
Named one of the world’s 50 great wine producers, the family-owned Villa Maria’s Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc 2008, Marlborough, $16.30, is startlingly intense, with a characteristic boxwood and passionfruit nose and flavours. It has bite yet a soft mouthfeel, too.
Kim Crawford’s Sauvignon Blanc 2007, Marlborough, $19.95, is a blend from several vineyards, and on the nose smells faintly boxwood, but compensates with peach and lychee notes and a very long finish of citrus complexity.
From one of the old sources of Sauvignon in France’s Loire valley comes the Domaine du Pré Baron, L’Elégante 2006, Touraine, $19.95. Harvested at close to over-ripeness, the influence of New Zealand is deliciously clear with its boxwood and grapefruit aromas, mouth-watering acidity and long finish.