Wine with Leslie Williams: Opening my mind to the grape wine writers love to hate, sauvignon blanc

It sort of worked, and some of the good ones I found are recommended below.

Wine with Leslie Williams: Opening my mind to the grape wine writers love to hate, sauvignon blanc

So in the last few weeks, I have been tackling one of my prejudices and opening my mind to the grape consumers love and wine writers love to hate, sauvignon blanc. It sort of worked, and some of the good ones I found are recommended below.

First, there was the New Zealand fair in mid-January which had lots more sauvignons that I liked than disliked and the general trend seems to be towards passionfruit and away from the dreaded asparagus and green beans. I love asparagus on my plate but consider it a fault when I smell it in sauvignon — usually indicative of grapes being picked too late. I found far more elegance than fruit and acidity as would have been the case in previous years.

Just after the NZ wine fair came a visit by Matt Thompson, winemaker at Rapaura Springs in Marlborough. He brought single vineyard wines which showed the variations to be found in Marlborough which has 27,000 hectares under vine. There are the alluvial soils of the Wairau Valley near Blenheim and the cooler Southern Valleys to the south and the even cooler climate Awatere Valley to the East.

Next came the showing of Vintage, a film focused on the 2019 harvest at Villa Maria which had a showing in Dublin. The film is still available on the Virgin Media player. If you ever wanted to work in a vineyard this will inspire you or put you right off, yes there was grape picking and stamping and wine tasting but also the need to chase away wild boar. Search for “Vintage” at

St Patrick’s Day is next Tuesday and with the huge number of new Irish spirits in recent years you have plenty of choice. Do support some Irish producers next week, Red Breast has a new 27-year-old port finish version which is outstanding if you have a few hundred to spare but regular Red Breast or Lustau Edition Red Breast are always a treat. I also recommend brand-new The Liberator Whiskey from the lakes of Killarney (see my Spirit of the Week slot) — only 700 bottles produced so a collector’s item in the making. Finally, a shoutout to Teeling Single Pot Still for their much-coveted Best Irish Drink Award from the Irish Food Writers’ Guild.

Wines Under €15

Rapaura Springs Sauvignon Blanc 2019, Marlborough, New Zealand — €11.50

Stockist: Dunnes Stores

Dunnes Stores have this wine exclusively and it is always consistent. This is their entry-level and in some stores, you may find some single vineyard Rapaura wines worth trying. Bright lime and apple skin aromas, zingy and pure with fine texture and ripe fruits and a crisp mineral finish. For a euro less you can try Dunnes’ other Marlborough Sauvignon Silver Moki.

Laurent Miquel Père et Fils Sauvignon Blanc,Languedoc, France — €9.00

Stockist: Dunnes Stores

I’ve featured Irish-French winery, Laurent Miquel, here before as they are remarkably consistent. The Père et Fils range is more entry-level but worth a try. The Languedoc sounds warm but there are plenty of cooler spots perfect for Sauvignon, this is packed with grapefruit, citrus and green fruit aromas, crisp and bright and a touch of mineral elegance on the finish.

Peter Yealands Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough,New Zealand — €12.99-13.99

Stockists: JJ O’Driscolls Superstore Cork, Ardkeen Stores, Jus de Vine, JC Savages, Joyces Galway, Independents.

Peter Yealand’s wines are consistently good, both this and the pinot noir which has creamy red fruits. This has gooseberry and tropical fruit aromas with some passionfruit and papaya. Green apple fruits are more evident on the palate, bright acidity, apple skin flavours and not a little elegance.

Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc Reserva,Marlborough, New Zealand — €15-19.99

Stockists: SuperValu

This is normally ¤20 but does get reduced to a bargain ¤15 occasionally. Villa Maria is a big seller here and very consistent, this Reserva version has a lot more intensity, doubling down on all those gooseberry fruits. For the next week or so there is an excellent film on the 2019 vintage at Villa Maria free to watch on the Virgin Media Player called Vintage, check it out.

Pascal Jolivet Sancerre, Loire,France — €30.00

Stockists: Dunnes Stores

This is classical Sancerre from a producer born 10 minutes from both Sancerre and the other great Sauv village Pouilly Fumé. This has a big hit of apple and citrus on the nose but with creamy ripe fruits and a zingy lemony kick on the palate to balance out any richness. Complex and exactly as you would hope for, most Sancerre does not taste this good.

Sancerre Sébastien RiffaultAkmèniné — €30

Stockists: Green Man Wines, Sheridans Galway, Dublin & Meath, Mitchell & Son Kilmacanogue, CHQ & Dunboyne, 64 Wines.

Riffault likes to let his fruit ripen and sit late on the vine, often his grapes get botrytis so a honeyed touch can be found. This is from a single hectare site on clay and limestone — bitter lemon aromas, soft sour touches, bristling intense lemon fruits and austere apple edges and fascinating.

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