A ‘Wacky’ Sauvignon

The grape variety Sauvignon Blanc has been grown in France for at least 200 years and is, in fact, old enough to be one of the parents of Cabernet Sauvignon (along with another old-timer, Cabernet Franc).  The Cabernet Sauvignon link suggests that Sauvignon Blanc’s origins were in Bordeaux but growers in the Loire claim it is native there.  Who knows who is right (and does it matter?) but, for much of the 20th century, if you wanted to drink single variety Sauvignon Blanc, it was Sancerre, Pouilly Fumé (not to be confused with Pouilly Fuissé, which is Chardonnay) or one of the other eastern Loire Appellations.  Or, if you were happy with Sauvignon in a blend (normally with Sémillon), you looked to Bordeaux and to Graves for a dry example and Sauternes for a dessert wine.

And then, in the mid-1980s, everything changed.  Along came New Zealand, and specifically the Marlborough region, with their own very distinctive take on Sauvignon Blanc.  No longer the dry, austere, ‘flinty’ style from France, here was an altogether fresher, more zingy and lively white with instant appeal that gained popularity with remarkable speed, drawing on the success of the iconic Cloudy Bay brand.

When Cloudy Bay’s winemaker, Kevin Judd, decided to move on, he started his own label, Greywacke (pronounced ‘Grey wacky’), named after the dominant soil in the local vineyards.  On first smell and taste of Judd’s Greywacke Sauvignon, you might not think of New Zealand at all.  Here is a much more restrained version of the grape, almost French in style.  Yes, the characteristic acidity and grassy, citrussy flavours are there, but wrapped up in something far softer, more rounded and, for a variety that is sometimes described as a little one-dimensional, incredibly complex.  It is also very food-friendly; think delicate fish or lighter-style chicken dishes and you won’t go far wrong.  Not cheap for a Sauvignon, perhaps, (£20 in Majestic and widely available elsewhere for similar money) but, for me, the depth and breadth of flavour make it really worth the money.

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