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A Magnificent Bastard’s Guide To Sauvignon Blanc

Wind back the vino clock fifteen years, and Australians were obsessed with Chardonnay. Bottle shops and wine lists were heaving with gutsy, oaky and buttery wines with loads of fruit and attitude.

But then we changed. We adjusted the way we eat and, as a result, the way we drink, because all wine lovers know that it’s important to get the food match right – right? Suddenly huge plates of rich food were out and smaller share plates were in.

Dishes like thinly sliced kingfish carpaccio and salt and pepper squid demand a wine that is light, bright, dry and delicious. And Bastards, that’s where Sauvignon Blanc comes in.

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Sauvignon Blanc is consumed while young, when the acid is still high and you can almost taste the skins and the stalks of the grapes. It’s a perfect summertime wine, because unlike Riesling and Chardonnay, it can take a really good chilling without killing off the flavours. These are usually a combo of fruit and herbs and will vary according to which region your Sav Blanc comes from.

Types Of Sauvignon Blanc

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The main contenders for the top drops are cool climate regions like the Adelaide Hills, who produce a wine with hints of white peach and lime. Victoria’s King Valley brings a hint of grass and tropical fruit to their drop, while Margaret River blends it with Semillon to make their ‘Classic Dry White’ style similar to Bordeaux. And then there’s New Zealand.

A trip to the bottle shop will reveal what’s happened with Kiwi imports of Sauvignon Blanc. There’s a veritable flood of them. As it’s Australia’s most popular white, plenty of wineries popped up across the ditch to take advantage of our massive market.

The cool maritime climate in New Zealand gives the Sauvignon Blanc grapes a long, steady growing season, bringing a good balance of sugar and acidity and introducing flavours of asparagus, gooseberry and passionfruit. Asparagus? Really? Yes, it’s true, hence the need for a long time in the fridge and a big ice bucket.

Marlborough is the premier wine region in NZ, accounting for 75 per cent of all wine produced in the country. An astounding 85 per cent of this wine is Sauvignon Blanc. It practically grows there like weeds. Sure, a lot of the stuff the smaller Kiwi wineries churn out isn’t that great, but the top drops are world-renowned.

The Brits import even more of the stuff than we do and the Americans love it too. Other notable regions include Hawkes Bay and Central Otago on the North Island, who also produce some cracking Merlot.

What To Buy

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So what to try? Well, the good news is that there are several good quaffers around the $15 mark. Stoneleigh, Giesen and Oyster Bay are all big sellers and very approachable wines. Take it up a notch to the $25-30 mark and you’re in Sav Blanc paradise.

Some current favourites are, Shaw + Smith from the Adelaide Hills, Cloudy Bay from Marlborough, Coldstream Hills from Yarra Valley and Philip Shaw No.19, from Orange.

Orange, west of Sydney, is emerging as a region producing exceptional Sauvignon Blanc. Probably because it’s so bloody cold! Philip Shaw’s example is an absolute cracker that you could proudly take to any dinner party.

Food Match

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The last piece of the puzzle is the fare your host has dished up to go with your generous offering. Seafood of any description is ideal. Sav Blanc is light, fresh, with zingy citrus flavours and crisp dryness, making it the perfect accompaniment to fish, prawns, squid, lobster, oysters and crab.

Alternatively, it pairs perfectly with a spiced-up Thai green chicken curry and the high acidity is also excellent for cutting through the fats in fried food like salt and pepper squid or tempura.

For a refreshing drop, Sauvignon Blanc is definitely one to add to your wine repertoire.

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