If you like to be sure of your pronunciation there is every reason to call this fresh-tasting, lemon, lime and gooseberry-charged wine “Savvy”.
After all, it accompanies sunshine sipping occasions extremely well and is equally at home with seafood, fish, salads, asparagus, goat’s cheese and anything that has basil as a leading flavour. This grape is the savvy choice when pouring wine for a large group of people. There is almost no-one who will turn their nose up at a good Savvy Blanc.
Grape names are often changed for convenience. Everyone shortens Gewürztraminer into Gewürz; Zinfandel has become Zin; and if you talk about Pinot you are undoubtedly referring to Pinot Noir. But the name Sauvignon Blanc actually comes from “Sauvage” – which is French for wild.
The leaves on this vine resemble the leaves of a wild vine. And there is another reason why this grape should be afforded its proper name. Sauvignon Blanc is the progeny of Savagnin, a historic grape from the Jura. If you refer to Sauvignon Blanc as Savvy, you are pretty close to calling a daughter by her mother’s name. In turn, Sauvignon Blanc is a parent of Cabernet Sauvignon and I have never heard anyone refer to the grand grape of Bordeaux as Cabernet Savvy.
But call it what you will, in the last few decades Sauvignon Blanc has transformed the vineyards of the world. It used to be the lacklustre grape that grew in the Loire, occasionally shining with brilliance in Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé but mostly it produced unremarkable crisp white wine.
Then New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc came on the scene. Advised by experts to plant apples, a company in Marlborough on the South Island planted Sauvignon Blanc instead. The rest is history. From a standing start, New Zealand has led the vignerons of the world on a journey that has taken this grape to be the world’s favourite for Friday night drinking.
So, what should you choose? Here is my savvy choice of a dozen Sauvignon Blancs – all under £20.
Specially Selected Touraine Sauvignon Blanc 2020, Loire, France, Aldi, £5.99: Terrific value in this bright, gooseberry and citrus flavoured wine with a distinct minerally streak on the finish.
Aupouri Sauvignon Blanc 2020, Gisborne, New Zealand, Asda, £6: Thirst-quenching Sauvignon with crisp citrus flavours and enough weight to take on a salad supper and a Friday night in.
Errazuriz Sauvignon Blanc 2020, Chile, Morrisons, down from £9 to £6.50 until July 27: This has pineapple and mango fruit, backed by clean, fresh citrus flavours and a touch of green, crushed tomato leaf.
The Pebble Sauvignon Blanc 2020, Loire Valley, France, Tesco, £8: An impressive, great value French Sauvignon with citrus and minerals upfront, backed by crisp apple, melon and nectarine. Tesco has bought a whole series of wines from the same producer, Fournier et Fils, and each one hits the mark. Try Tesco Finest Sancerre Blanc at £14 or trade up to the flagship Patient Cottat Sancerre Anciennes Vignes 2020 at £16.
Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc 2020, Marlborough, New Zealand, Asda, £8: Available in most supermarkets and corner shops but don’t let that put you off. The quality is consistently good, with fresh gooseberry and passion fruit flavours.
Cono Sur Organic Sauvignon Blanc 2020, San Antonio Valley, Chile, Sainsbury’s, £9: Cono Sur has always been sustainable and environmentally aware. That’s why it has bicycles on the label – all the workers cycle around the vineyards. Now they have converted to organic for selected wines. It helps that they grow the grapes in good sunshine, with rain mainly falling in winter. This wine has clear lime aromas, lemon zest and nectarine flavours and a fresh, palate-sharpening finish.
Vavasour Sauvignon Blanc 2020, Marlborough, New Zealand, Co-op, £10: Head to Hazelwood Castle, near Tadcaster, and you can see where the Vavasour family lived for hundreds of years. One of them was even locked up in the Tower of London by Elizabeth 1. Eventually some of the family headed to New Zealand and in 1985 they acquired land and planted a vineyard in the Awatere Valley. This wine combines the crunchy minerally freshness of good Sauvignon with peachy passionfruit notes and a terrific, long finish.
Vergelegen Sauvignon Blanc 2020, South Africa, Tesco, £10: The octagonal label represents the shape of this stylish winery, and the wine is stylish too. Grapes are sourced only from this historic estate’s own vineyards on slopes between the mountains and the sea. It has aromas of freshly cut pink grapefruit, white blossom and passionfruit with a vibrant, citrus palate and a clear, herbal finish.
Klein Constantia Sauvignon Blanc 2020, South Africa, Majestic, £12.99 on a mix-six deal: Famous for its sweet Vin de Constance wine, Klein Constantia also makes exceptional Sauvignon Blanc. Winemaker Matt Day uses wild yeast fermentation and cool temperatures to provide citrus pith flavours, layered with mango, peach and a streak of fresh grapefruit.
Hunters Offshoot Sauvignon Blanc 2020, Marlborough, New Zealand, Field & Fawcett, £14.99: I guarantee you will not have tasted a Sauvignon Blanc like this one. For a start, it is cloudy, with a layer of yeast in the bottle. It comes with a crown cork because it is sparkling with natural carbon dioxide from those yeast cells.
Usually described as a pet nat (pétillant naturel), it has all the flavour expected of a Sauvignon Blanc, layered with notes of baked apricots, crunchy apple and a touch of ginger spice. Take care when opening and enjoy with roast chicken or pork belly.
Domaine Masson-Blondelet Pouilly-Fumé 2020, France, Waitrose, £15.99: A classic expression of Sauvignon Blanc, with aromas of freshly cut summer meadows and an elegant, precise palate of gooseberries, citrus and stony beaches.
Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc 2020, Marlborough, New Zealand, Latitude, Leeds, £17.99: An exceptional winemaker (Kevin Judd) making exceptional wines. This has soft, aromatic notes of melon, and peach, then follows through with zesty citrus and a rounded texture.