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Murray Almond's "From the Left Island"

Sauvignon Blanc; a Classic Dry White, or Just a Part of One?
© Murray Almond
28 October 2001

New Zealand can be justifiably proud of its reputation in Sauvignon Blanc wines. The purity of style of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc highlights the nuances of the grape variety in it's purest form. However a different view of Sauvignon Blanc is made if you travel left from New Zealand's shores for about 1/6 of the way around the world. Here you'll reach the large, and still emerging wine regions from Western Australia (please note you'll need to head a touch north from NZ while you're travelling left or else you'll be having a substantial dip in the Indian Ocean.)

Over in the West of the Left Island, Sauvignon Blanc is often seen as a blending agent for white wine, often with Semillon and a dollop of Chenin Blanc thrown in. Sometimes this blend may also see a bit of oak before bottling.

While many wineries label their blends according to the varieties; the standard name for the Western Australian Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon Blend is Classic Dry White.

The herbaceouseness of both the Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc varieties blend well together, the Semillon often adding an acidic backbone to the wine.

Recently I had the opportunity to compare two of Western Australia's more acclaimed examples of the Classic Dry White from the latest vintage.

Cape Mentelle label The Cape Mentelle Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc 2001 from Margaret River is a pale straw colour with a tinge of green. The nose is highly herbaceous of wet cut grass. It has a nice mouthfeel with good acid up front with a slight bitter kick at the top of the palate, good balance throughout and a good long finish. The regional characteristics are pronounced with this wine.

A stark contrast was the Pierro Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc, also from Margaret River. This wine was quite dumb in comparison to the Cape Mentelle, the herbaceous characters are understated however show good balance, with a whiff of sulphur that is noticeable without being annoying. The wine has a medium length finish. This wine may still be coming together after bottling. A retaste in a couple of months may see a healthy integration of flavours.

I feel both these wines are made for early drinking, and will be highly enjoyable in the string and summer months over the next couple of years.

Western Australia also produces some creditable varietal Sauvignon Blancs, however these incarnations of the Classic Dry White style are worth seeking out.

© Murray Almond
28 October 2001

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