Founder of wine-pages.com Tom Cannavan was the international judge on the panel responsible for reviewing the 94 entries in the unwooded Sauvignon Blanc class at this year’s Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show.
His immediate impression was that while the best had good intensity the line-up was generally without great distinction. “Fresh, well made but lacking the fireworks which I think punters want”. He qualified this by saying that perhaps Sauvignon Blanc intrinsically doesn’t amount to much more but urged producers to aim for more character in their wines, even so. “The basic quality is high but there’s a sense of winemakers being too cautious stylistically. I’d like to see more flamboyance and flair.”
Opportunity exists for local Sauvignon Blanc in the UK market as “fresh whites” have been trending positively for about the last five years. “Oak is still out. Consumers want aromatics, freshness, minerality”. Cannavan points to the success of such varieties such as Albariño (Spain), Vernaccia (Italy) and particularly Picpoul (France). “These are all grapes that nobody had heard of until recently but are now selling by the bucket load”.
Cannavan confesses to be ever so slightly bemused by the phenomenon. “Where the hell did Picpoul come from? I think the explanation is that the wines are not expensive – typically around £6.99 or two for a tenner, have good aromatics, plenty of freshness and moderate alcohol”.
What will succeed and what won’t isn’t easy to predict. “Riesling gets plenty of media support but there’s no take-up from consumers. That’s because of the whole legacy – it’s considered sweet [Liebfraumilch the UK’s top selling fruity white in the Sixties and Seventies]. The aromatics on Gewürztraminer are too much. Sauvignon Blanc has become a bit of a cliché – people don’t want to drink the same thing everyday”.
Results of the Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show will be live on this blog late in the afternoon of Wednesday 30 May.