I'm not the world's greatest fan of sauvignon blanc. But, as with any grape, if grown in a location suited to its character, sauvignon can transcend the one-dimensional nettle, asparagus and gooseberry characters that are its hallmark.
I was anticipating some excitement at a blind tasting of premium oaked sauvignon blancs from around the world put on in London by Yvon Mau's enterprising head honcho, Jean-Christophe Mau, and Richard Bampfield MW – oak can transform the grape into a creamy-textured dry white that goes with a wider range of food than its unoaked counterpart.
Of the 32 wines on the block, only 11 were from Europe. Six from Bordeaux, two from the Loire, two from Italy and one Turkish sauvignon went head-to-head with seven from New Zealand, six from South Africa, three apiece from Australia and California and two from Chile. In the best ones, high-quality raw material combined with sensitive oak treatment.
It was no great surprise to learn after the event that three of my top wines were from Bordeaux, a fine 2012 Caillou Blanc from Château Talbot, an excellent 2012 Château Latour-Martillac, Pessac-Léognan, and Jean-Christophe Mau's ultra-stylish 2012 Château Brown, Pessac-Léognan. I gave good marks to two Aussie sauvignons, a 2013 Terre à Terre Wrattonbully Sauvignon and a superb 2013 Larry Cherubino Pemberton Blanc. South Africa was mixed, with the best wine a 2011 Reyneke Reserve White.
From New Zealand, my favourites were the 2010 Astrolabe Taihoa, Kekerengu, 2011 Greywacke Wild Ferment, and the biggest surprise, for sheer value, a thoroughly appetising 2013 Huia Sauvignon Blanc, Wairau.