When I think about Sauvignon Blanc, I think back to my first introduction to wine. A broad wine category with many brands to choose from and very little knowledge. This week, when the opportunity came to sit down and taste 36 wines with the Managers of Sense of Taste while be guided in a intimate learning from none other than Tyson Stelzer, I was never going to pass up the opportunity; after all, the Sauvignon Blanc category is obviously popular for a reason.
If you don’t know who Tyson Stelzer is, he is a multi-award-winning wine writer, television host and producer, author of 18 books, a world-renowned wine show Chairman and judge and probably one of the most important roles, is a Chief Editor of the Halliday Wine Companion.
First and foremost, Tyson describes Sauvignon Blanc in two ways. Firstly, it is commercially vital. It’s ‘obvious’ and is the ‘most versatile’ white wine with plenty of punch and variety. Secondly, it is a wine that has broad qualities that make it a ‘less risk wine, due to its consistency and range of flavour profiles’.
Sauvignon Blanc grapes are produced and harvested from a range of locations both domestically and internationally, including Adelaide Hills, Riverland, Riverina Marlborough and Margaret River. The Sauvignon Blanc variety currently comprises 4.5% of Australia’s wine grape plantings. Tyson explains that his personal favourite and the finest region for Sauvignon Blanc oscillates between Margaret River and Adelaide Hills. Of recent times, namely the 2021 vintage and looking to the future for the 2022 vintage, Adelaide Hills is making an intense claim as the premier region, taking over the mantle from Margaret River.
Unlike most wine varietals that have their grapes picked over extremely strict time and season periods of only 24-hour periods, Sauvignon Blanc is picked over a month-long period that highlights the vast profiles and flavour pallets of this wine category.
The major appeal of Sauvignon Blanc for critics and consumers alike, is the versatility of the food pairing potential. Tyson tells us that due to the variety of pallet options available within Sauvignon Blanc, you will always be able to find a wine suitable to any food type, giving credit again to the category’s versatility and adaptability.
To continue to develop the Sense of Taste Managers knowledge of the variety, we discussed the differences between key growing regions for the wines. The ever-popular New Zealand Marlborough region is a cool and sunny climate that continually produces fruity and consistent wines. Margaret River has been known for high natural acidity, vibrant and aromatic wines. Finally, the Adelaide Hills is a cooler climate perfect for elegant wines with lovely, high natural acidity.
In order to clearly educate our Sense of Taste Managers, Tyson developed his Sauvignon Blanc Ripeness Spectrum to explain the wide variety of flavours available with Sauvignon Blanc. He explains a three-pointed spectrum from: Underripe, to ‘Just Right’, to Overripe. Underripe wines contain flavours of Green Capsicum, Green Beans and Lantana. ‘Just Right’ consists of Lime & Lemon, Pink Grapefruit and Peach. Overripe wines present flavours of Gooseberry, Mandarin and Mango. Sauvignon Blanc is so versatile that flavours can be both underripe and overripe, further cementing the fascination with Sauvignon Blanc, as its not uncommon to see extremes of flavour from both ends of the spectrum. Next time you try your favourite Sauvignon Blanc, why think back to this Ripeness Spectrum indicators to determine what your wine is presenting?
In order to educate the Sense of Taste Managers, Tyson presented 35 wines, all available at Sense of Taste stores, from three different price categories: Under $20, $20-$28 an $30+.
Sauvignon Blancs under $20 saw us taste wines from brands such as Lindemans, Wolf Blass, Hesketh, Grant Burge, Secret Stone and more. All enjoyed by our Managers and presenting unique palates and noses, the stand out from this category was the Hesketh Bright Young Things Sauvignon Blanc. This wine presented grapefruit flavours (‘Just Right’ – Tyson’s Ripeness Spectrum) and was described as long, fresh and classy. This wine hails from the cooler climate of the Limestone Coast in South Australia.
The $20-$28 range was the largest range tasted and featured 20 Sauvignon Blancs from a variety of regions throughout Australia and New Zealand. The favourites picked from these 20 were the: Bird in Hand Sauvignon Blanc (Adelaide Hills), Leeuwin Estate Siblings Sauvignon Blanc (Margaret River, Western Australia), Mud House Woolshed Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough, New Zealand) and Saint Clair Original Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough, New Zealand)
Wines then tasted from the $30+ range featured the “next level” of flavour and complexity, such as the stand outs: Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc from Wairau Valley, Marlborough, New Zealand. This wine was Tyson Stelzers favourite for the day. This wine is very reminiscent of a White Wine from Burgundy, France and due to the Sulphur content, expresses strong nose notes of matchstick and gunpowder. The Vasse Felix Sauvignon Blanc was a complex and popular drop, that had reminiscent consistencies similar to that of Chardonnay. The Pascal Jolivet Sauvignon Blanc from the historically relevant and classy region of Sancerre, France was another beautifully crisp Sauvignon Blanc that expressed flint, lime and chive notes.
All of these wines are available for purchase at Sense of Taste stores and online at senseoftaste.com.au
The experience to taste these wines with the guiding and emphatic hand of Tyson Stelzer was an experience the Sense of Taste Managers and I will relish. Until next time…