In my first official wine lesson I learned that there are somewhere 8 and 10 thousand different varieties of grape used to make wine around the world but the vast majority consumed in the UK comes from something like a dozen varieties.
These are all varieties you’ll have heard of; names like Chardonnay, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc.
But knowing what you’re drinking depends on where it comes from. The vast majority of wines from Europe don’t have the grape variety on the label. Most wines from outside Europe do.
And some of these grapes have more than one name. Pinot Grigio is the same as Pinot Gris, just made in a slightly different style. Likewise Shiraz is the same as Syrah.
So it’s not that straightforward and it’s easy to see why people see “New Zealand – Sauvignon Blanc” on a menu or supermarket shelf and stick to that.
Often you have to know a bit about wine to understand which grape a wine is made from and that can be a bit daunting. So hopefully this site will help you.
In future posts I’ll lead you through regions and grape varieties and hopefully open the door to some new wine.
And, armed with just a bit of knowledge, you’ll be able to compare and contrast.
I’ve met people who say they don’t like Chardonnay but their favourite wine is Chablis. I’ve also met someone who told me that they love Sancerre but can’t stand Sauvignon Blanc.
They were still unconvinced when I mentioned that Chablis is a Chardonnay and Sancerre is made from Sauvignon Blanc grapes.
But what it shows is that the same grapes can be used to make completely different styles of wine around the world.
So let’s start with one of those grapes - Sauvignon Blanc. It’s one of the most popular grape varieties in the UK over recent years.
Wine trends come and go. The boom in wines coming out from New Zealand – and specifically Sauvignon Blanc - has filled the gap that Pinot Grigio enjoyed during the mid noughties when Sex In The City was in its heyday. Before that Chardonnay was the trendy tipple.
And Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc tops the list for plenty of good reasons. Climate plays a huge part in the taste of the wine and the warmth and long growing season of NZ allows the grapes to ripen more than in some other more established wine growing areas.
This generally allows it to develop a fruitier flavour. So most of the supermarket NZ Sauvignon Blancs will have fresh passion fruit and apricot flavours but at the same time keep their acidity giving the wine a zesty and fresher flavour.
Generally they’ve been designed for drinking young, with or without food and often lack the subtlety or complexity of Sauvignon Blancs from other parts of the world. But there are also some brilliantly made wines, which will age well and often far more nuanced drinking experiences.
These are very popular wines on the UK’s supermarket shelves. Here are three NZ Sauvignon Blancs, which you can find on most supermarket shelves:
The Ned – Sauvignon Blanc – 2020 – On offer at Morrisons for £6 – 6.5/10
I first tried The Ned about three years ago and was really surprised by its quality. It’s usually a typically fruity Marlborough wine, with lovely passion fruit and peach flavours. This is the first of the 2020, I’ve tried and I was a little disappointed. The acidity is still really high but it’s a bit over-powering and isn’t balanced by the usual strong fruit flavours. However, for the price (look for it on offer) it’s well worth getting a few in.
The Most Wanted – Sauvignon Blanc – 2020 – £7.50 from Tesco (£8 in Sainsbury’s) – 6/10
This one’s not from Marlborough – otherwise they’d put it on the label. And you can find it in most supermarkets at the moment. This one was less balanced than The Ned – as it feels more acidic and lacks subtlety. But it’s a typical NZ wine with gooseberry and citrus flavours that are really refreshing and zingy.
Wairu Cove – Sauvignon Blanc – 2020 - £7 from Tesco – 7/10
Again, a wine you can find at a lot of supermarkets, and it’s a good example of the New Zealand style. Bold, tropical fruit, still with high acidity but balanced well. It’s a solid Marlborough wine; refreshing, fruity and mouth-watering.