What is it with Australia's white wine drinkers? They don't like chardonnay because of how it tasted 20 years ago, they don't like riesling, well, well just because (must have something to do with the acids...), and when they do find something they like they buy it from somewhere else (New Zealand sauvignon blanc).
To be honest I'm not a big drinker of sauvignon blanc, but this doesn't stop me from regularly reviewing the stuff. I find most Australian savvys are fairly predictable and at times one dimensional, which is probably why they're so popular. Personally I prefer more complex, richly textured, lightly oaked sauvignon blanc. Unfortunately there are very few of these around Australia.
I've grouped sauvignon blanc/semillon blends in this section as well, irrespective of what the dominant variety is. I've found a lot of sauvignon blanc drinkers (and there's a lot in my age demographic) don't discriminate against these blends, all they care about is that there's sauvignon blanc on the label. That's why they're here.
One last point I want to make is about regions. Most South Aussie quaffers look straight to the Adelaide Hills for their savvy (after Marlborough of course), forget this! The Margaret River is clearly Australia's best sauvignon blanc region for the serious drinker, especially when blended with semillon. The best wines of W.A. may not be as approachable or easy to scull down as Adelaide Hills wines (which I do like by the way), but they offer a lot more satisfaction and consistency. Yarra Valley, Great Southern and Tasmanian sauvignon blancs are also worth a look, but I find that Yarra savvys are extremely rare in S.A.
Reviewed below is the Cullen Mangan 2008, Howard Park 2008, Paracombe 2008, Shaw and Smith 2008, Tamar Ridge Devil's Corner 2008, Wangolina Station 2008 and West Cape Howe 2008. As with the riesling reviews all of these are about to be replaced by their 2009 counterparts. Nonetheless, I enjoyed all of these and they're all still available in shops. The Howard Park would be interesting to drink in a few more years, while Cullen's superb Mangan probably needs a few more years just to reveal its best. These are my kind of savvys.
CULLEN MANGAN VINEYARD SAUVIGNON BLANC SEMILLON 2008
- Region: Margaret River, WA
- Price: $30-$40
Reliably wild, savoury, funky and complex; Cullen's French oak matured (4 months) Mangan Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc Semillon has become a recent addition to my personal favourites list since its initial release (2006-95pts).
Exceptionally refined and elegant on the nose, the 2008 Mangan's complex perfume of reserved guava and pea is augmented beautifully by notes of lemon and smoky butter/vanilla oak. Deliciously light and restrained, its smoky, briney and mineral palate drives with great viscosity along an oily undercarriage. Savoury tones of toasty French oak extend the wine into a fresh, vibrant and sculpted finish, framed by a tight interweaving of unobtrusive, spiky citric acids.
ü+ Tighter, lighter and more restrained than previous wines, the 2008 Mangan still retains plenty of smoky, mineral complexity. It should develop layers of flavour, texture and richness with short to medium term aging. Delightful. Drink 2011-2018.
HOWARD PARK SAUVIGNON BLANC 2008
- Region: Margaret River/Pemberton, WA
- Price: $20-$29
First released in 2003, the sauvignon blanc is Howard Park's latest addition to their range. Utilising partial oak fermentation and the use of free-run juice only, it's destined to become another classic Western Australian savvy.
Somewhat smoky and distinctly herbal, the 2008 reveals dusty scents of lemon butter and green pea, leading into a very soft, generously rounded and juicy palate. Texturally more interesting than most, with genuine mid-palate depth, it offers rich flavours of mineral accented lemon herbs, finishing with a bright extract of chiseled acidity and lasting notes of citrus. Wood fermentation has resulted in a wine with a harmonious interplay of oak and restrained primary fruit characters.
ü+ Clearly Western Australia's dominating this category right now, and its fine winemaking pedigree may soon see Howard Park Sauvignon Blanc rated amongst the elite. Drink to 2011.
PARACOMBE SAUVIGNON BLANC 2008
- Region: Adelaide Hills, SA
- Price: $16-$24
Paracombe is among the most successful of the new breed of small Adelaide Hills based wineries. Their sauvignon blanc is already considered one of the region's best.
Tasted one week after release, Paracombe's 2008 reveals an intense , uplifting perfume of great fruit profile, laced with powerful aromas of banana and passionfruit. Smooth, juicy and clean, its palate matches the nose with truly appetising fruit characters, finishing with a lingering note of banana and very refreshing acids.
ü+ An excellent savvy blessed by delicious, fruity qualities; Paracombe's 2008 deserves to be a hit with the quaffing crowd. Drink now.
SHAW AND SMITH SAUVIGNON BLANC 2008
- Region: Adelaide Hills, SA
- Price: $20-$30
Shaw and Smith has a deserved reputation as one of the Adelaide Hills' finest producers. Their industry leading sauvignon blanc sits proudly in the company of Australia's most recognisable white wines.
Typically clean and pure, a gentle nose of lychees, lime, guava and paw-paw precedes a soft, fruity palate of juicy varietal character, which finishes with an extract of pleasingly mild acids. Its carefully balanced guava and lime flavours entice the palate in a fashion perfectly suited to early drinking, as should be expected for the style.
ü Maintaining their debatable position as Australia's most consistent producer of sauvignon blanc, Shaw and Smith has delivered a clean and gentle wine from the very difficult 2008 season. Drink now.
TAMAR RIDGE DEVIL'S CORNER SAUVIGNON BLANC 2008
- Region: Tasmania
- Price: $12-$20
Owned by the controversial pulp mill group Gunns Limited, Tamar Ridge is one of the few to make large scale (for the region), inexpensive Tasmanian wines. These wines are bottled under the Devil's Corner label.
Pungently grassy and herbal, with underlying notes of apple, the 2008 Sauvignon Blanc presents a clean, racy palate wrapped in lively lemony/citric acids. Its moderately long, zesty finish announces herbal cool climate characters, smoky undertones, persistent mineral notes and pleasing shape.
ü+ Drawing upon the quality cool climate fruit of Tasmania, the 2008 Devil's Corner is a real bargain which sees many of its cheap competitors eating dust. Drink now.
WANGOLINA STATION SAUVIGNON BLANC 2008
- Region: Mount Benson, SA
- Price: $16-$22
The previously unknown to me Wangolina Station brand dropped a bombshell on the local industry this year with their 2008 Sauvignon Blanc (Blue Gold-Sydney, Gold-Royal Adelaide, Top Sauvignon Blanc 95pts-Advertiser, Adelaide Review's Top 100, the list goes on!). I honestly can't recall such an unheralded sauvignon blanc creating such a fuss in the local media.
Fragrant and grassy, the Wangolina Station proclaims a definition and lift of its gooseberry, pea and passionfruit aromas which was missing from many of the Adelaide Hills' 2008s. Its generously mouthfilling, cool climate sauvignon blanc characters (which match the fragrance to a tee) are wrapped in refreshing acidity, and although it experiences a minor dip on the back palate, the wine finishes wonderfully clean and fresh with lasting vegetal and light lemon/lime citrus notes.
ü+ Precisely balanced, clean, grassy and mouthfilling; the Wangolina Station is the closest thing I've had to a quality Marlborough from 2008. You can add my name to its list of accolades. Drink now.
WEST CAPE HOWE SAUVIGNON BLANC 2008
- Region: Great Southern/Manjimup/Pemberton/Blackwood Valley, WA
- Price: $14-$22
West Cape Howe is an emerging winery gaining a steady following for its fresh and affordable wines. Their popular sauvignon blanc has quickly become one of Western Australia's best.
A different savvy with 3% each of riesling and semillon, West Cape Howe's 2008 presents a clean, smoky fragrance of faintly herbaceous varietal fruits in the kiwi fruit/lime spectrum. Racy and fresh, with an entry defined by tight mineral notes, its juicy gooseberry flavours are neatly wrapped p by refreshing acidity and a lingering smoky, herbal aftertaste.
ü+ For much the same price West Cape Howe's 2008 has a more complex, refined flavour profile than your standard, pungently fruity sauvignon blanc, whilst containing enough balance and refreshing acidity to give it broad appeal. Well worth a look. Drink now.