Saturday, 4 October 2014

A Different Side of Sauvignon

Sauvignon Blanc often suffers from “Middle Child Syndrome”. While Chardonnay gets all the expensive oak treatment, and Riesling is fawned upon by winemakers and journalists, Sauvignon Blanc tends to be pretty overlooked. It is a hardy and vigorous vine, adaptable to many soils and prone to producing abundant foliage and fruit. Yet just like a child whose growth has not been nurtured, a vine that is ignored will fail to develop its full potential. Overcropped Sauvignon Blanc is bland and watery, lacking focus and complexity. Ong YiXin, founder of KOT Selections, states that even Sancerre, the spiritual home of Sauvignon Blanc, is a “sea of mediocrity”. “Badly farmed, made for the Parisian market,” he tut-tuts.

YiXin should know. KOT Selections is Singapore’s foremost importer of Loire wines, ranging from texturally rich Chenin Blancs from Anjou to the herbal examples of Touraine Sauvignon Blancs. YiXin works with around 30 vignerons from the Loire, and in the past three years has only managed to find one grower from Sancerre who meets his expectations. “What makes Sancerre special is minerality,” says YiXin, “and you need proper terroir to get that.” On their selection criteria, YiXin explains that “Quality is our benchmark, then we look at the price. Very few producers meet our standards of quality, and unfortunately even fewer are able to offer the wines at reasonable prices.”

KOT Selections holds a monthly wine tasting on the last weekend of each month. Dubbed the Weekend Wine Bar, each session has a different theme. These tend to be lively, well-attended affairs, but YiXin wanted to add another offering in the form of tutored masterclasses for sommeliers and trade professionals.  KOT’s Marketing and Sales Executive Fernanda Koprowski says, “It is important that people working in the trade know about the wine so that they can sell it.” The support of this group is especially important for KOT Selections because 80% of their business is with restaurants.

Their second masterclass was held in September and focused on the Sauvignon Blanc grape. My last visit to the Loire revealed some toothsome, well-priced wines, and I jumped at the chance to reacquaint myself with this region. Yet YiXin still managed to surprise by pulling out some wines which showed the diversity of Sauvignon Blanc. We had oaked, and even aged examples, with the flavour spectrum running the whole gamut from fruity to minerally, and even vegetal. Some of the wines were extremely pungent and my guess is that consumers will either love or hate them (durian lovers may tend towards the former).

Tasting notes:

Francois Cazin Cheverny Blanc “Le Petit Chambord” 2013 - The Cheverny AOC is a relatively new one, having been created in 1993. To gain the AOC designation the wines must be a blend, and this example is made primarily of Sauvignon Blanc with a minor proportion of Chardonnay. The nose is rather faint with hints of lime and passionfruit. The palate shows more concentration, with tangy freshness and smoky notes leading to a grassy finish. 

Domaine du Clos de L'Elu “Terre!” 2013 – Fermented using wild yeasts. Doesn’t really taste like a Sauvignon. Toffee and earthy notes, hints of apple cider and a bit savage.

Clos Roche Blanche Touraine 2011 – The nose is pungent, grassy and a little earthy. Palate shows green salad and hints of nuttiness. Rather short on the finish.

Clos Roche Blanche Touraine 2010 – A step up from the 2011, this was a little richer in fruit concentration, but still had those pungent and earthy notes with mushy peas. Light bodied and could be a bit fresher.

Domaine Vincent Gaudry Sancerre Blanc “Melodie de Vielles Vignes” 2013 – Biodynamic producer.  The vineyards for this wine are planted on chalk soils. Light nose, more fruity than herbal. High extract and rich in texture, showing complex notes of chalk, honey, yoghurt, and lemon fruit with a mineral tension. Vibrant and fresh. A wine that, like its name, truly sings.

Domaine Vincent Gaudry Sancerre Blanc “Constellation du Scorpion” 2013 – An interesting side-by-side comparison against the Melodie, with the only difference being that this wine came from vineyards planted on silex soils. Delicate aromas of lime, straw and honey. Prickly acidity with delightful purity of fruit and a zesty, lime-filled finish. A tad lighter than the Melodie but no less complex.

Clos Roche Blanche Touraine Sauvignon “No. 5” 2010 – Aged in large oak fuders and bottled after a year and a half. A selection of the best grapes from the Clos Roche Blanche vineyards. Pronounced aromas of herbs, sweet pea, ginseng and pine. Supercharged intensity and incredible depth, but not an easily understood wine; more of an intellectual challenge. Slight warmth on the finish.

Domaine Vincent Gaudry “Pour Vous” 2010 – Limited production of only 600 bottles annually. Intense aromas recalling smoke, baked/stewed apples, cashew nuts and overripe lemons. Medium+ acidity with vanilla, smoke and cinnamon spice on the full-bodied palate. There is a lot going on here but it will take a few years for the components to integrate.

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