It's the UK's favourite grape but where should you look for the best flavours? Christine Austin offers her top tips on Sauvignon Blanc.

According to a recent survey of 400,000 UK wine drinkers, Sauvignon Blanc is our top choice when it comes to grape varieties. Apparently the zesty, gooseberry and fresh-cut grass flavours of this grape beat all others in every British town, city and county, apart from Berkshire where they seem to prefer the nation’s second choice, Chardonnay.

Frankly I was quite surprised at the results. I had thought that Italian favourites Pinot Grigio and Prosecco would be near the top, but they languish down the chart, beyond Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and even Pinot Noir.

So what is it about Sauvignon Blanc that makes it so popular?

First of all it is easy to say and I hope I am not casting scorn on anyone’s pronunciation skills with this statement. If you want to ask for a wine in a shop or a restaurant then getting the name right is essential. Grüner Veltliner, Gewürztraminer and even Viognier might be a lot more popular with simpler names.

Soo-vin-yon Blonk is the correct way to say the name but many people, including winemakers, now call it ‘Sav Blank’ which means that it is snappy and easily identifiable.

And while Soo-vin-yon is grown around the world, there is nothing on earth that would permit a Frenchman to refer to his beloved Sancerre or Bordeaux Blanc wine as ‘Sav’.

So that means if someone calls a wine Sav Blank they really mean a New World wine, probably from New Zealand.

Accessibility is another reason to favour this grape. Most Sauvignons come with screwcaps which means there is no hunting for the corkscrew mid-conversation when the bottle runs out.

You can twist off the top and pour without missing a beat. And wherever it comes from in the world there is a theme running through the flavour of them all – snappy, zesty, refreshing flavours with varying levels of green leafiness, citrus, tropical fruit and minerally crunch.

Sauvignon Blanc is a thirst-quenching, lively tastebud-reviver, suitable for sipping as an aperitif, teaming with starters, main courses and after dinner conversation. So where in the world should you go for the best flavours? 

wine3New Zealand

New Zealand has stamped its own personality on Sauvignon Blanc and in doing so has raised the world standard for this grape. Most of it grows in Marlborough at the top end of the South Island.

Planted around 40 years ago, this former sheep country is now wall-to-wall vines, with regimented rows stretching into the distance. The soil is stony and the weather is cool, all of which help preserve Sauvignon’s green, leafy flavours and lively acidity.

By picking grapes in successive weeks across the region from the shallow, fast-draining soils of the Wairau Valley to the even cooler, breezier Awatere Valley, growers can capture a range of flavours from fresh, herbaceous tones to more melon, peach and mango notes.

Try these Sauvignons for some of the best flavours:

The Ned Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Waihopai River (Majestic, £10.99, down to £9.34 on multibuy, current Waitrose offer £8.24).

It is just so easy to drink this wine. Clean and lean with just enough chopped, green grassy herbal aromas, a touch of gooseberry on the palate, minerals and a long, refreshing finish. It sometimes comes down in price to a mouth-watering, thirst-quenching £7.50.

Tinpot Hut Sauvignon Blanc 2013 (Ake and Humphris, Harrogate, £13.20)

A light, fresh, green style of Sauvignon, with crushed blackcurrant leaves and lemongrass notes underpinned by rounded melon fruit. The 2014 is just making its way into shops, but like most Kiwi Sauvignons there is no need to rattle the bottles on the shelves to find the youngest vintage. The 2013 is still drinking well.

Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc 2014 (Halifax Wine Co, £15.95)

Given just one choice from New Zealand, this is the wine I would select. Made by Kevin Judd, it is lively and refreshing with layers of melon, peach and passionfruit with a rounded, positive style. Delicious in its youth, this is a wine that will build its flavours in bottle for a couple of years.

About The Author

Christine Austin

Christine is a wine writer, broadcaster and a wine judge for several international wine competitions. She has a technical background and spent five years as a buyer for a major supermarket before moving to wine writing.She writes for The Yorkshire Post Magazine and organises the York Festival of Food and Drink. She has won both the Lanson and the Roederer prizes for wine writing.

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