Anthony Rose: It's almost impossible to escape sauvignon blanc


Just when I thought it was safe to enjoy the autumn press tastings, I found myself drowning in a sea of troubles otherwise known as supermarket sauvignon. Seven at Morrisons, 11 at Oddbins, 11 at Marks & Spencer, 14 at Asda, and no fewer than 18 apiece at Sainsbury's and Waitrose.

It's not that I'm against sauvignon per se. It's just that since it became the default alternative to Bridget Jones's' chardonnay, it's almost impossible to escape from its ubiquity.

Like chardonnay, sauvignon blanc is the other popular grape variety that has migrated to so many different parts of the New World because of its cash-cow capacity. Cynical? OK then, because it suits the climates of New Zealand, South Africa and Chile.

Thanks to its chemical component known as pyrazines (also contained in cabernet sauvignon), sauvignon is prone to green veggie aromas and flavours ranging from the asparagus, green bean, basil and artichoke spectrum through to the more pleasant green pepper, elderflower, nettle and gooseberry and on to the tropical flavours of guava and passion fruit.

So what's my gripe? In becoming a brand name, sauvignon has succumbed to a bland, me-too, so-what, who-cares sameyness that's often uninspiring. It's difficult to match with food, so becomes the default bar-propping apéritif dull dry white.

Exceptions abound to every rule and it's perfectly possible to cut through the blandness and find excellent examples of the variety. One of the positives at this time of year is the fresh, enticing zing you get from the new nouveau, that is, just-made 2013 vintage sauvignon blanc from the New World.

Herb and gooseberry fool are the hallmarks of the 2013 Helderberg Winery Sauvignon Blanc, £9.99, Marks & Spencer; elderflower-infused herbal notes the trademark of the 2013 Waitrose Reserva Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, £7.99; exuberant, lemony-citrusy freshness the characteristics of the 2013 De Grendel Sauvignon Blanc, £11.99, Waitrose.

Maybe it's just as well, then, that sauvignon as such gets lost, or rather subsumed, in many of its best manifestations, in other words the refreshingly mineral sauvignons of the Loire Valley.

Enjoy, for instance, the intense nettley fragrance and clean, flinty gooseberry fruit of the 2012 Pouilly Fumé Les Champalouettes, £12.99, Sainsbury's, the spearminty tang of the 2012 Domaine du Salvard Cheverny, £10.50, Oddbins or the smoky, mineral intensity of the 2012 Domaine Bailly Sancerre, £15.99, Marks & Spencer. OK, done. Now, pass the riesling.