BEAULIEU SUR MER, FRANCE, May 18, 2018: If the previous article was about a rare wine, Petite Arvine, very difficult to find outside Switzerland, this one presents you another vision of one of the most planted grapes variety – Sauvignon blanc (the white wild).
This time of the year (May – June) is full of life. The nature is vibrating and evolving? Which are your childhood memories related to it?
Elderflower and the pure scents of spring
Saturday mornings with the father mowing the lawn. Week-ends on the countryside with long walks on the hills or simply along a river. The first fruits from the small garden behind the house (gooseberries maybe), or the smell of white flowers?
One of the most distinguished is the elderflower. That you must have discovered also in lemonades and cordials and, later, in Saint Germain liqueur – a top ingredient for many cocktails – why not Hugo Spritz.
It was a time of freedom, joy and shared moments. Having a glass of wine is also a shared moment. For a full experience, a good one would make you travel through time and different places.
Because we never forget a smell and a taste, the past experience might have an impact on the type of wine we like or not. With the help of aromas, we discover and re-discover ourselves!
The joys of Sauvignon blanc
Sauvignon blanc grown on cold climates can bring back summer memories (beside creating new ones). Characteristics:
- A brilliant lemon hue with green tints, freshness, medium-high acidity, light-medium body, medium alcohol. Aromas and flavours of elderflower, gooseberries, lime, grapefruit, grass, passion fruit.
- All being influenced by the terroir and the winemaker’s techniques (vineyard management, selection, ripeness, yeasts, the use of stainless steel or barrels).
The aromatic compounds are responsible for the wine bouquet. In this case there are thiols (some fruits), esters (fruits and flowers) and methoxypyrazines (greenness) (www.wineanorak.com). The most important is the balance between these elements.
The riskiest are the pyrazines, whose high concentration is due to the lack of maturity in the grapes translated into unpleasant, pungent aromas of bell-pepper, asparagus, black-currant leaf or boxwood, the lack of fruit flavours, and usually an acidity too elevated.
Most people like them in small quantities.
Sauvignon blanc at its best
Sauvignon blanc is one of the most planted grape variety because it is able to adapt to different soils and climates. In the hot climates, the acidity is moderated. The alcohol is more present and more aromas remembering ripened stone-fruits and exotic fruits – all giving a rounder mouth feel.
The finest choice of the wine is found in France, on the Loire Valley and Bordeaux region – places that claim to be its homeland. The two terroirs are very different, and the results are suitable for all occasions. One of its parents is the white Savagnin and itself is the parent of Cabernet Sauvignon (with Cabernet Franc).
Sauvignon blanc and the Loire Valley
The Loire is France’s longest river, 1006 km, flowing from the South-East of Massiv Central (N, NW) to the Atlantic Ocean.
In the middle of the valley, you will find the Central Vineyards with the famous Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé Appellations (AOC) with the finest expressions of Sauvignon.
All the natural factors are there: gentle slopes (Piton de Sancere – 356 m); a soil composed from limestone, clay and flint, marl or gravel; a continental climate (hot summers and cold winters) moderated by the Loire river. Expositions and the human factor (savoir-faire) all contribute to the quality of wine.
Geology between Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume (Guild Somm)
Sancerre AOC (2900 ha, 14 villages):
- Portlandian and Kimmeridgian sub-soils
- Ferruginous sandstone
Pouilly-Fumé (1317 ha, 7 villages):
- Tertiary clay, sand, limestone
- Quaternary sand, gravel, clay
- Portlandian and Kimmeridgian (limestone and marl)
Making great Sauvignon blanc in the Loire Valley
The wines, made only from one grape (monocépage), are highly aromatic, fresh and precise, with pure primary aromas designated to be drunk young.
Of course, the ones with more concentration, coming from exceptional sites (mainly rich in marl and flint) would benefit from few years of aging.
The stainless-steel vats are used most of the time but in case of choosing oak barrels. These would add a touch of vanilla and exoticism, growing the ageing potential at the same time.
As we know, the balance between aromatics – acidity – alcohol is the key for a quality wine.
Sauvignon blanc in the Loire Valley thru the centuries
In spite of the centenary tradition of these sites, the lack of a grand cru official classification makes them less prestigious.
There is a long history in practicing and improving Sauvignon blanc, starting with the monks influence during Medieval Times, reorganization of the vineyards after Phylloxera, and the creation of AOC appellation in 1937.
It is continuing with new techniques as bio-dynamical practices, parcel vinification – selection parcellaire, use of natural (indigènes) yeasts.
Vineyards to count on in Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume
The most reputable cru vineyards are: Chêne Marchand, Grand & Petit Chemarain, Le Roc, Clos du Roy.
Most of the domains are familiar, but some can be constituted from different plots situated in different appellations. So, the wine range is quite extended. The selection is coloured by a small production of rosé and red made from Pinot Noir.
My favourite ones have that flinty – smoky nose, concentration and depth on the palate and long finish. I like it the most when I let people discover my favorite cuvées.
It happened more than once when a glass of Sancerre made the tour of the table. Everyone was curious and impressed by it!
Sauvignon blanc selections and food pairings
My coups de coeur from the last tastings are: Sancerre – Clos du Roy, Dom. Pascal Jolivet 2016, Pouilly Fumé – Terres Blanches Dom. Pascal Jolivet 2016, Pouilly Fumé – Indigène Pouilly Fumé – Silex Dom. Dagueneau 2014. Bonus: Beauregard Blanc – Thierry Constantin 2016, Sauvignon Blanc – Erich Meier 2016, Sauvignon Moelleux – John&Mike Favre 2016.Favourite food and wine pairings: there are a lot that can be done around sea food, salads, cheeses (especially goat cheese). When I want to make a difference I like to pick a chocolate and mint macaron to pair with a Sauvignon moelleux.
Teona Floare is a Wine and Travel Consultant and Sommelier at the acclaimed Michelin starred restaurant Le Restaurant des Rois at the 5 star luxury hotel La Reserve de Beaulieu in Beaulieu sur Mer near St. Jean Cap Ferrat.