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Thursday, 11 April 2013

Shaw + Smith: Serious Sauvignon

"Sauvignon Blanc makes up a large amount of what you sell" opened Michael Hill-Smith MW at - what is becoming a hotly anticipated date on the wine nerds calendar - the Shaw + Smith Workshop series, and in this case the subject at hand "Serious Sauvignon". Setting forth the challenge, Hill-Smith continued: "it is your responsibility to find the best examples, not just at a price point, or based on a label". 

The irony of some part of that statement - mixed with a message about how this maligned variety suffers from being judged by the mass produced, low value bulk examples - caused me to smirk at the presence of a couple of attendees from a big box wine company.

David Le Mire was on hand to talk through some history of the variety. An old variety, first noted in 1534 as 'fiers' from the latin 'ferus' or wild, and indeed it is said that 'Sauvignon' itself comes from the French Sauvage, or wild. Genetically, it is an offspring of Savagin, a sibling to both Chenin Blanc and Trousseau. It itself begat Cabernet Sauvignon during a steamy vineyard liaison with Cabernet Franc - and you then understand the leafy linkage between the two.

Site and Soil
Courtesty of
Hill-Smith reinforced how important soil was, for "if soil as not important, Sancerre and Marlborough examples would taste the same". A vigorous bugger is Sauvignon Blanc, treat it mean and keep it keen and it produces examples with less methoxypyrazines (compounds that impart herbaceous aromas and flavours), more fertile soils and the opposite holds true.

Le Mire added: "Bordeaux, and in Australia Margaret River, are about as warm as you'd want to go with the variety". A touch prone to the rot and mildew is our thin skinned friend. This adds an extra dimension to how it needs to be handled in the vineyard, airflow is needed as is the need for some protection from the sun.

The Wines
Pascal Jolivert Sancerre 2011 $40
Opens with grassy notes, nettle and softer citrus. Slightly fuller palate weight - seeing some malo - less cutting, some mineral and acid. Good 'prickly' finish, of medium length. 90 - Good

Didier Dagenau Pouilly-Fume 'Silex' 2010 $240
Subtle intro, a little chalky, less overt, touch of fresh herb - restraint. Palate at odds with this: fuller, dense, concentrated - good acid here. Magnificent length of flavour, suggestions of aging potential. 94 - Excellent

Domaine Smith Haut Lafite Pessac-Leognan Blanc 2010 $210
Barrel work here evident, more open style - warmer comparitively than the previous two - with good fresh lemon character. A classic white Bordeaux state the MWs and significantly, the stylistic influence on those examples in Australia employing the use of barrel fermentation and oak seasoning. 92 - Very Good 

Cloudy Bay 2012 $30
"No mistaking the variety here". Too right. Pungent is a word that leaps forth here. That and overt. Gooseberry, herb and some underlying hints of tropicals. Prickly acid, grassy and yet subtly textured. Length is short-medium, beyond the slap-in-the-face aromatics and face-rub texture you might not be caring. As Hill-Smith quipped: " (it's a) style so inter-changeable, there's little loyalty except at the top end, price based decision making". That said, I can likely see why it likely shifts by the carton. As much a status symbol as its stable-mate, the 'Louis' handbag. Not for me though Mrs. 89 - Good 

Greywacke Wild Sauvignon 2011 $37
Barrel ferment evident here, but more than just about techniques. Florals and a little citrus, but it is texture that wins out for me. Battonage aids in that, acid and minerality still present, some underlying fruit character. Length is moderate, with mouthfeel and texture. Quite happy here. 93 - Very Good

Borrowed from TWTW
Bay of Fires 2012 $32
From the man who has unwittingly done more for the Republican movement in Australia - purely by allowing the monarchists to show themselves up for the daft sods they are - than most others, Mr Peter Dredge.          

Apparent delicacy here, not overt. A little grassiness, some underlying tropicals. Good acid framework. Restrained, good mineral character - yes I would drink this rather happily. 92 - Very Good

Shaw + Smith Sauvignon Blanc 2012 $25
More pronounced (than the previous wine), sharper acidity, citrus driven. The winerym over the course of this wine's life have established a picking window of about 3 days, deliberatley picking riper. Finishes well with a zesty, pithy citrus of medium intensity. 90 - Good

Lusatia Park 2010 $35
Dirty Epic. Lees, funk and oak secondary characters. Charry with a saline quality to the wine - loved the complexity in this beast. Not for the faint hearted. 93 - Very Good 

Livio Felluga 2011 $35
It smells Italian; perfumed, light and pretty - a hint of almond. Clean, yet fresh and lively - not so varietal comparatively. Possibly why I enjoyed it. Short-medium length, clean and fruity. Simple crowd pleaser. 88 - Good

De Martino Nuevo Mundo 2011 $18
I had to check that I hadn't poured water into my glass. Not Rated

With Thanks
Informative. Educational. Much heart-felt thanks to Shaw+Smith for the continued undertaking of this activity. Aiding in the education of those such as I. Much respect.

Tasted on: 11th April, a Leaf Day
Source: Workshop
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