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Innovations in Sauvignon blends – Watch out for Viognier

You will find Sauvignon Blanc blended with other white grapes in a myriad of combinations throughout the wine producing countries of the world. Some of the more successful blends have really taken off and even die hard traditionalists are now trying their hand at creating new fusions with this grape. Here’s the latest news on what to watch for if you are a Sauvignon fan . . .

Chateau du Tertre Blanc
Chateau du Tertre Blanc

New Sauvignon blends see Bordeaux Grand Cru Classe break with tradition.

Margaux Fifth Growth Chateau du Tertre is to release a brand new white wine made from a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Chardonnay and Gros Manseng. This is a brave, bold move away from the norm with a modern choice of white grapes unusual in Bordeaux. Du Tertre’s choice of grapes is interesting – the addition of Viognier to the blend could signify the start of a trend.

Sauvignon & Chardonnay blends are common in S W France and Sauvignon & Gros Manseng blends have become popular in Gascony over the past decade . . . but Sauvignon & Viognier blends have been quite rare. They are definitely worth watching out for and I’d expect to see more being made in the future.

Viognier grapes
Viognier grapes

Viognier produces wines with an incredible combination of depth and heady fragrance but it is notoriously difficult to grow. It almost became extinct in the 1980s but, thankfully, is now planted throughout France. Its heartland is in the northern Rhone and it’s thought that it was brought here by the Roman Emperor Probus circa 281 AD. Legend has it that Viognier takes its name from the Roman pronunciation of the Via Gehennae, meaning the ‘Road to Hell’ (an allusion to the difficulty of growing the grape).

Alexander van Beek, CEO of Chateau du Tertre and Third Growth Chateau Giscours (both owned by the Jelgersma family) has said: ‘We thought for a decade about making a white wine at Chateau Giscours or Chateau du Tertre. With climate change, it is now possible to produce a white with personality. You just have to have an open mind!’

Chateau du Tertre
Chateau du Tertre

Climate change is not the only factor driving experiments in blending different grape varieties. There are more than a few Bordelaise mavericks who enjoy using long forgotten and/or unusual grape varieties (see my series: Unclassifiable Bordeaux here to learn more about wines that don’t fit Bordeaux AOCs). However it’s rare to see a Grand Cru Classe taking the audacious move to launch a wine made with grapes that are not allowed in Bordeaux AOC bottlings – especially as the finished wine can only be labelled ‘Vin de France’.

  • NB. To bear the label of AOC Bordeaux white wine from the region can only be made from a blend of permitted grapes: Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon being the classic primary Bordeaux blend.

Sauvignon Blanc & Viognier

Sauvignon and Viognier is an unusual blend but we are starting to see it being adopted by master blenders across France. The marriage of the two grapes takes a lot of skill as its a tricky business getting the balance right. Deep and powerful Viognier can easily overwhelm the racy Sauvignon Blanc, neutralising its refreshing qualities. It takes a master blender and cellar master to accomplish a polished blend such as this – it’s a difficult challenge to take on.

Sauvignon Blanc & Viognier
Sauvignon Blanc & Viognier

Recommended Sauvignon Blanc & Viognier: Temps d’M Blanc

60% Viognier, 40% Sauvignon Blanc. 12.5% abv. 75cl.

Produced by master blenders Christophe Rethore and Jean-Michel Davy this is an excellent blend of Sauvignon Blanc & Viognier. The grapes are grown at high altitude (4400 feet) in the Loire Valley. The soil is dry and lies over a bedrock of mica-schists strewed with white quartz on south facing slopes on the hillsides of Mauges. Precision, careful management and vision go into the making of this blend and the finished wine is gently aged in Acacia barrels rather than Oak. The combination of Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier in Acacia results in a very clever wine as the Acacia barrels enhance the fruit and citrus flavours in the wine and enrich its aromas.

temps d'm blanc small
Temps d’M Blanc 2014 – Sauvignon Blanc & Viognier

Tasting Notes:

Enticingly aromatic nose, impeccable structure and balance with a medium body. Flavours of apricot, pear and citrus fruits with nuances of water melon, lime blossom and gooseberry. Subtle spicy undertones of spice. Silky, supple and refreshing with wonderful bouquet.

Food Matching:

Temps d’M is a gorgeous wine to enjoy with friends or whilst relaxing alone but it’s also great with poultry and pork, chicken livers, ham and prosciutto, pheasant and guinea fowl as well as squid and grilled fish such as mackerel or sardines. It pairs well with Chinese cuisine using oyster or plum sauce.

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