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Celebrating sauvignon blanc

Six Sigma Ranch is owned by Kaj Ahlmann, whose work in the reinsurance business led him to visit Bermuda several times

Today, May 6, is the day when we celebrate wines that are derived from the third most planted white wine grape – sauvignon blanc.

We could almost get away with thinking that only chardonnay exceeds it in vineyard acreage as who has ever heard of the airén from Spain that takes the top spot?

As airén is mostly used for brandy production let’s forget about it anyway. And if you are about to comment that you marked this day on your calendar last year and you know that it was May 7 you would be correct. It is the day and not the date, as the first Friday in May is the chosen one.

Bordeaux is considered the birthplace of sauvignon blanc. The subregion of Graves (the “a” is pronounced “ah” so don’t think of burial plots) is well known for its whites that are blends, with sauvignon blanc dominating.

Take our 2018 Chateau Crabitey Blanc for instance. Its pale yellow colour and notes of white flowers, anise and fresh ginger are derived from a mix of sauvignon blanc and semillon with the sauvignon dominating each year – usually 70 per cent to 80 per cent. Smokey notes are also evident. $27.40 (Stock #7917).

Of course, many wines have hints of smoke as they come from the degree of char caused by the wood being heated to bend the staves to make the barrel.

Barrel heads are stamped LT or MT or HT to indicate whether the winemaker has requested a light, medium or heavy toasting. Sauvignon blanc can exhibit this on its own; hence pouilly-fumé in the Loire and fumé blanc in California.

I am a big fan of white bordeaux, but I am somewhat out on a limb by myself, as sauvignon blanc from the Loire Valley dominates our French sales. In fact, 2020 Pascal Jolivet Sancerre has been designated plenty of space in the Burrows Lightbourn cellar.

This winery is dedicated to biodynamic methods and making the finest example of sauvignon blanc. Canada’s Natalie MacLean rates it a fine 91 points and writes: “Pascal Jolivet 2020 Sancerre is a bone-dry, mouth-watering sauvignon blanc with lime zest and crisp mineral flavours on the palate. Grapes were sourced from several parcels and vinified separately prior to the final blend.”

James Suckling, also with 91/100 puts it this way: “Pale and vibrant in colour. The Pascal Jolivet Sancerre is fresh, clean and screaming with racy acidity. On the palate it is fresh and tightly wound; acidity is tempered by very subtle residual sugar; very clean; alive, racy, youthful. Overall, a dry and elegant wine.”

Decanter magazine calls it “the best in a decade”. Good going my old friend Pascal! $36 (Stock #7801).

Henri Bourgeois Petit Bourgeois Sauvignon Blanc 2020 is from a family that, for ten generations, has given their passion to making fine sauvignon blanc. We do carry their sancerre and pouilly-fumé, but this wine offers you the ability to experience this grape for only $23.95.

It ferments in thermo-regulated stainless-steel tanks at a cool temperature, in order to have longer fermentations and more intense aromas.

The wine then matures for three months on its fine lees before bottling. The grapes come from the slopes of the Loire Valley, known as "the garden of France" due to its temperate climate which is perfect for growing vegetables, and of course grapes.

With remarkably aromatic and pleasant flower and fruit fragrances, it reveals a freshness and vivacity that is pure and clean.

Citrus, apple and gooseberry aromas with hints of passion fruit are found in this lively and bright wine that is an incredible value. (Stock #7923).

When we drove through the front gate of the Six Sigma Ranch, about 100 miles north of San Francisco, our thought was where the heck is the winery?

This beautiful property belongs to Kaj and Else Ahlmann and, at 4,300 acres, is about a third the size of our country! Kaj has been a leading player in the reinsurance business and visited Bermuda numerous times.

They dedicate some of their land to vineyards and today I would like to mention 2019 Six Sigma Asbill Valley Sauvignon Blanc.

The Wine Enthusiast says, “This 100 per cent stainless steel sauvignon blanc beams with bright lemon grass, citrus blossom, and tropical melon on the nose. The palate is playful and juicy, filled with ripe lychee, honeydew, and a hint of cardamom.

“Medium weight and elegant mouthfeel, balanced by fresh, crisp acidity. A perfect representation of what makes Lake County sauvignon blanc so sought after." $28.75 (Stock #5905).

Now down to Chile for a bottle of 2020 Cono Sur Bicicleta Sauvignon Blanc that, for $17.65, offers a deal for crisp and intense sauvignon blanc with refreshing citrus aromas, white peaches, lychee and palate of green apples balanced by a crisp dry finish.

“The Cono Sur vineyard workers travel around their estate by bicycle, tending the vines using natural methods. The Wine Enthusiast writes of “green apple, orange and green herbs”. Stock #7825.

We cannot discuss this grape and leave out New Zealand, and I will not be offended if you consider me a little sneaky, as I am not going to discuss a typical one. I did mention that I really appreciate the versions of sauvignon blanc that emanate from Bordeaux and the 2019 Auntsfield Estate South Oaks Barrel Fermented Sauvignon Blanc is, for me, more in this style.

It is bright straw with a ripe tropical fruit core featuring mango, juicy nectarine, and lemon peel. Lifted notes of dry herbs, lime leaf and gooseberry, supplemented by complex aromas of honeycomb and toasted almond follow.

Creamy structure and underlying chalky minerality provide linear structure and the mouthfeel is intense and yet seamless and well balanced.

In other words, not a wimpy wine, but extremely lovely. $35 (Stock #5802).

This column is an advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. Contact Michael Robinson at mrobinson@bll.bm. Burrows Lightbourn have stores in Hamilton (Front Street East, 295-1554) and Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355). Visit www.wineonline.bm

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Published May 06, 2022 at 7:57 am (Updated May 05, 2022 at 3:43 pm)

Celebrating sauvignon blanc

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