Spotlight on Sauvignon Blanc

Introduction

One of the first wines I drank in my early 20’s was Sauvignon Blanc.  The Mateus Rosé we were initiated into wine drinking with was becoming too sweet for the palate and we needed a value dry wine to pair with Aussie Garlic Prawns.  Out jumped an inexpensive bottle of Entre-Deux-Mers! The name Entre-Deux-Mers comes from marée, the French word for tide. The two rivers are subject to the influence of ocean tides, and the region is thus entre deux marées , or “between two tides”.  Mouton Cadet was our brand –a  light-bodied, dry, refreshing white wine with flavours of lemon, white peach and notes of white flower blossoms.

Sauvignon Blanc is grown all over the world but there are possibly five regions that capture the nuances of the grape.

  1. The quintessential Bordeaux appellation for Sauvignon Blanc is Graves which takes its name from its soil, the French word for gravel.  The wine has a subtle citrus character and the Sémillon blends reveal honeysuckle.
  2. The white wines of Sancerre in the Loire Valley may be the purest expression of the grape highlighting a steely grace and minerality in the form of wet stone!  There are also nice wafts of white peach, fresh cut grass and green bell pepper.
  3. California has its’ own Sauvignon Blanc clone which exhibits a straw colouration and ripe grapefruit and Mandarin orange on the palate.
  4. Chile also grows the California clone but here the wines are crisp with strong minerality.
  5. New Zealand has a huge share of the global Sauvignon Blanc market.  The Marlborough region is the most famous, the wine bursts alive with tropical fruit- kiwi, pineapple etc.  I have spent many wonderful hours poolside sipping Monkey Bay, Kim Crawford and their friends in the heat.

This brings us to British Columbia and the Okanagan style of BC Wine.  Sauvignon Blanc is the 4th most popular white varietal as indicated by the acreage metrics shown of the BCWineTrends Stats page.  The styles vary from flinty Sancerre to Creamy Bordeaux Sémillon blends and extend to cool New Zealand style with tropic fruit notes.

DSauv Blnc popularityLast Sunday, over 100 guests joined the Wine Party crew on board SS Sicamous to taste a wonderful array of Sauvignon Blanc BC Wines produced by local wineries while nibbling on Wild BC Spot Prawn creations by three local star chefs:

  • Chef John Burke of Front Street Brasserie Chef
  • Chef Ross Derrick of The Table at Codfathers Seafood
  • Chef Mark Ashton from Lake Breeze Winery & Patio Restaurant

The Participating Wineries

 1775 benchBench 1775 Winery 2015 Sauvignon Blanc. The 2014 vintage won a DOUBLE GOLD at the 2015 All Canadian Wine Championships Bench so we hoped the new vintage would be even better.  This is a racy white, with aromas and flavours of lemon, lime and grapefruit. Winemaker Val Tait builds the layers of flavour by picking the grapes four different times. The early pickings contribute the vibrant character and the later pickings bring riper flavours.

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Black Market Collusion 2015.  Collusion is new this year and is a blend of 60% Sauvignon Blanc/ 40% Sémillon. The grapes for the blend come from Road 20 in Oliver on the west side of the valley. This block is ideally located for morning sun which helped to mitigate the aggressive ripening seen in the 2015 vintage. The Sémillon was aged in a new French oak puncheon for 4 months to give it some creaminess on the texture to soften the Sauvignon Blanc. The Sauvignon Blanc was tank fermented and aged. This elegant creamy white has good acid levels for food with a crisp orange blossom, caramelised citrus and grapefruit, a beautiful fragrance, medium to full body and nicely integrated oak.

2014-sauvignon-blanc evolveEvolve Cellars 2015 Sauvignon Blanc. Tropical fruits with lime and nectarine. Bright, lively citrus and summer fruit flavours of melon, nectarine, and pear. Pairs well with Okanagan goat cheese at your picnic, or afternoons under a shade tree with a really good book.

Fairview Cellars 2015 Sauvignon Blanc: 469 cases produced.  Up until 2010, all the grapes for this wine were purchased from Bruce Iverson, a passionate organic grower who consistently produces a high-quality product.  Two rows of Semillon on the Iverson estate add a much welcome complexity to the final product. As of 2010, a small acreage of Sauvignon Blanc on the Fairview estate has come into production.  Located on the lower level of the bench next to the first green, the microclimate formed by the irrigation schedule of the golf course is providing the necessary atmosphere for high-quality grapes.  These grapes are blended with the Iverson’s.    The wine has aromas of herbs and sage, leading to flavours of sage and grapefruit and grapefruit rind. The finish is bone dry.

Gehringer Brothers Wines Sauvignon Blanc: In the heart of North America’s most northern desert, is the home of Dry Rock Vineyards. The vineyard is known for its unique microclimate, southern exposure and rocky soils. Maintaining lower crop levels offers higher concentrations of intense flavours.  Fresh notes of grapefruit, melon and gooseberries shine through in this elegant Sauvignon Blanc. Dry and refreshingly crisp, it makes for a food-friendly wine.

lake breezeLake Breeze Winery Sauvignon Blanc 2015.  Lake Breeze Vineyards focus lies on the unique setting and microclimate of the Naramata Bench and this 2015 Sauvignon Blanc delivers an outstanding example.  The hot and dry growing season of 2015 resulted in one of the earliest harvest beginnings for Lake Breeze Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc.  Rich and lively with vibrant primary aromas of pink grapefruit, gooseberry and a touch of lemon. On the palate lingering fruit and zest will refresh during the long Okanagan summer days and nights.

le vieux pinLe Vieux Pin Winery Sauvignon Blanc. The 2015 vintage will be remembered as a very hot one and it had an impact on the yields: the tonnage was lower mostly because of thicker skins and smaller berries. The wines are concentrated, with a very good ripe tannic structure. The Sauvignon Blanc shows that beautiful balance between the gooseberry, herbaceous and the tropical side of Sauvignon. Guava and passion fruit notes resulting from grapes grown on the thin soil of our sun-drenched steep slope in “aurore” block greet you on the nose. The partial skin contact before pressing along with use of stainless steel, new and neutral oak and different elevage regime for each vessel resulted in a complex wine that is a pleasure for both the palate and the intellect. A truly unique wine that captures the spirit and geo-location of our sub-region.

Pentâge Winery Sauvignon Blanc 2014 was hand harvested on September 19th at 22.5 Brix. The block received mid-season leaf removal at the fruiting wire to expose the clusters to sunlight. The fruit was ~80% whole cluster pressed to limit skin contact and reduce thiol impact. The juice was cold settled 48hrs and racked to stainless steel tanks for fermentation. Two separate fermentations using different yeasts and different temperatures were used to give different characteristics and thus complexity to this wine. The wine was further aged sur lees in stainless steel tanks.  Reminiscent of Sancerre Sauvignon, the palate follows through with lemon and grapefruit peel, slate and lively acidity. Perfect as an aperitif, this wine would pair equally well with shellfish, fried chicken or calamari.

Therapy Vineyards 2015 Sauvignon Blanc. 321 cases produced.  This single vineyard wine was grown at the Sutherland Rd Vineyard where the vines are left to grow through the season un-leaf thinned, crop thinned or shoot thinned in 2015, allowing the grapes to remain more shaded, which produces fruit more expressive in the New Zealand style with greener, herbaceous flavours. Harvested on Sept 3, 2015 at 19.0 Brix, these grapes were crushed and de-stemmed and left to soak on skin.  After a slow gentle press cycle, this wine was sent to a stainless steel tank for primary fermentation. Embracing a new strain of yeast for producing bright clean Sauvignon Blanc, the fermentation was inoculated with VL3. It took nearly 4 weeks of fermentation to get the yeast to ferment through the sugars. After fermentation, the wine was racked off of heavy lees and was aged for 2 weeks with the enzyme Lafazym Arom to help improve mouthfeel and aromatics. After ageing and settling were completed, the wines were chilled to -2 for cold stabilisation and treated with a bentonite fining to provide heat stability.  The wine was then left in stainless steel vessels to age and mature before bottling on March 11, 2016.

This wine has distinctive aromatics reminiscent of lime zest, dill and basil.  With time this wine develops herbaceous aromatics that balance nicely with the lean, citrus profile of the palate.  Green and grassy, this wine has appealing freshness and minerality that works well with fresh BC coastal oysters.

Riverstone Sauvignon Blanc 2015 2River Stone Estate Winery Sauvignon Blanc 2015. 120 cases produced.   The grapes for this wine came from a neighbouring vineyard located just North of Oliver on the west side of the valley. Vineyard soils are composed of sandy loam deposited during the last glaciation. The vines were in their 7th leaf when the fruit was harvested on August 31st.  The grapes were hand-picked at peak ripeness, then de-stemmed and immediately pressed. The juice was then allowed to settle before transferring to another stainless steel tank where it is inoculated with yeast starting the temperature controlled fermentation. The wines were racked several more times over the next few months before blending, fining, filtering and bottling.  With just a touch of residual sugar, this wine is presently showing bold tropical aromatics and flavours of Passionfruit, Guava, gooseberry and grapefruit and melon. The wine is nicely balanced with a small amount of residual sugar giving a soft supple mouth feel and minerality reminiscent of other River Stone wines. Serve slightly chilled.

Everyone had a great time exploring the different styles of Sauvignon Blanc produced in BC and savouring the great seafood.

Sources :

  1. Photos from Jennifer Schell twitter stream.
  1. Most of the individual wine notes are from the winery web sites.