Ask Bob

“I’m travelling to Italy and France. Please can you tell me the names of wines that will be closest to a Sauvignon Blanc?”

Sauvignon Blanc is a French grape variety so you’ll find plenty of examples in France but don’t expect them to be the same, or even very similar, to Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. The French don’t generally show the grape variety on the label, preferring to identify the wine by region instead. That might take a bit of getting used to but it does make sense. The best French wine regions are governed by laws that dictate what grapes variety(ies) can be planted and how they are grown. Chablis and Pouilly Fuissé are both made using Chardonnay grapes and yet they both taste very different because they’re grown in different climates and soils using slightly different viticultural methods.

The two best known French Sauvignon Blanc regions are Pouilly Fumé and Sancerre. They make fresh, flavoursome Sauvignon Blanc with flavours that resemble nettles and gooseberries but lack the pungency and passion fruit/tropical fruit flavours of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. They are both uncompromisingly dry and, partly for that reason, are best enjoyed with food.

You’ll find it easier to spot a Sauvignon Blanc in Italy because the grape variety’s listed on the label. They’re mostly made in the cooler northern part of Italy. A few can be quite good but to the Kiwi palate many seem diluted and fairly bland.

“I sometimes have half or 1/4 cup of wine left over in a bottle. Can this be frozen to use in recipes in the near future?”

Absolutely! If you freeze it within a few hours of opening the bottle you’ll find that the wine is not only fine for cooking when it’s thawed, it’s also great to drink and shows very little loss of quality.

I taste over 4000 bottles of wine a year and have as many leftover bottles with just half-a-glass of wine missing. For many years I used to freeze my leftovers and thaw them when I was ready to drink the rest of the wine. I estimate that the small loss of quality after freezing is only about as much as you would lose if the wine was re-corked or re-capped and left in the fridge for a couple of days.

On several occasions I’ve thawed a bottle of frozen wine and served it blind with a freshly opened bottle of the same wine to students in my wine classes. There was no significant difference between the two samples according to the students votes.

If you don’t like the idea of freezing wine or lack the extra freezer space you might consider keeping small bottles of various sizes and decanting leftover wine into an appropriately sized bottle. If the bottle is clean, filled to the top and decanted within an hour or two of opening the wine will keep in good condition for weeks or even months.


First published in Taste Magazine NZ – Aug 2006.

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