Get out of your wine rut!
What to drink next if you’re stuck on ... sauvignon blanc
Rudmer Zwerver at shutterstock.com
The plaintive comment I get from most of my friends when we’re discussing wine is that they’d like to drink more adventurously but always end up buying the same thing. It’s perfectly understandable when supermarket shelves are packed with bottles with which they might be unfamiliar and on which - short of time, and maybe cash - they hesitate to take a risk.
So I thought I’d make it easier for them - and for you - by suggesting some wines you might like to explore based on your existing tastes starting with many people’s favourite white, sauvignon blanc.
Of course there’s a lot to experiment with within sauvignon itself. It’s grown practically everywhere though not all sauvignon has the lush ripe gooseberry and passionfruit character that has made New Zealand sauvignon blanc so popular.
It would definitely be worth your trying South African sauvignon and Chilean sauvignon with tends to be more citrussy and lesser known appellations from the Loire such as Coteaux de Giennois. (Sancerre has got quite prohibitively expensive of late.)
A lick of oak will immediately make sauvignon rounder and smoother as will the introduction of other grape varieties or the use of wild yeasts. Even within New Zealand there’s a thrilling range of styles (try Greywacke’s Wild Sauvignon for a start)
Sauvignon blanc and friends
If you’re only prepared to take baby steps out of your sauvignon comfort zone try it blended with other grapes such as semillon which is common in Bordeaux and Western Australia’s Margaret River. Still sauvignon but with an added softness and roundness. You’ll also find it blended with richer varieties like chardonnay and viognier to give them more freshness and lift.
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Other wines you’ll enjoy if you’re a sauvignon drinker
Spain’s most popular white wine is occasionally made from sauvignon but more often from a sauvignon-like variety called verdejo. It has some of New Zealand’s lushness and is generally good value too. (I once wrote a food and wine pairing ebook about it you might want to check out). Beronia is a reliable brand (currently £8.99 at Waitrose but often on special offer)
Côtes de Gascogne
This cheap and cheerful white has been on my radar since I started writing about wine in the early 90s. It’s made from grape varieties that are local to south-west France. It used to be medium-dry and a touch floral but these days is made in a more typically citrussy sauvignon blanc style. Tesco has a decent one in its finest range for £5.50 currently if you’re a Clubcard member which is a bit of a steal.
Bacchus and Bacchus blends
Bacchus is the grape variety that first put English wine on the map. You might find it a touch sharp if you’re used to New Zealand sauvignon, especially in a cool year but it has an elderflower prettiness that will appeal if you’re a Sancerre or Pouilly Fumé fan. New Hall in Essex (yes, Essex!) makes a decent one.
Greco di Tufo
Southern Italy might not strike you as the obvious place to look for fresh citrussy whites but it’s a surprisingly fertile hunting ground. Start with Greco di Tufo from Campania. Feudi di San Gregorio is a top producer - you can buy the 2020 vintage currently on special offer for £15.70 from All About Wine. And Lidl has one in its current Wine Tour which while not in the same league is a good introduction at £6.99.
Vermentino comes in a variety of styles. It’s more like an unoaked chardonnay when it’s from Tuscany but in Sardinia it takes on more of a citrussy sauvignon-ish character. I really like a new brand called Amu which you can buy from specialist wine merchants such as The Artisan Wine & Spirit Co ad which is brilliant with seafood. (Disclosure: it’s made by my mates Liam and Mark of Vineyard Productions but I wouldn’t recommend it if I didn’t like it!)
Greece’s assyrtiko is a bit of a cult grape variety at the moment. Most comes from the island of Santorini and is as bright and breezy as the winds that whip through the vineyards. Perfect with grilled squid or a Greek salad. Aldi stocked a pretty good one until recently which no longer appears to be available online but you might find it in one of their stores. Everyone else seems sold out too - testimony to just how hip it is. Look out for it on wine lists.
There’s a lot of vinho verde that probably won’t grab you - a lot are too light and spritzy for an SB lover but on the basis that my mate Helen loved the Arinto that Aldi is selling for a bargainous £5.29 I’m adding it to the list. Tip: buy a vinho verde with the name of the grape on the label. Others to look for are alvarinho and loureiro.
Clare (or Eden) Valley riesling
Even though the dominant flavour is lime rather than lemon or grapefruit Aussie riesling from the Clare and Eden valleys should tick that citrus box for you. The Co-op stocks the appealing Jim Barry’s The Lodge Hill Riesling which is great with Asian-style salads (also £10.99 on a mix six deal at Majestic) If you’ve been hesitant to try riesling give it a whirl.
This is a free taster of a new series I’m introducing for paid subscribers. If you’d like to know how to drink better and discover bottles you wouldn’t usually buy do sign up!
And do tell me any other wines you’ve enjoyed as a sauvignon blanc drinker