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Winner Details

New World: Sauvignon Blanc

2014: Gold 7 Silver 12 Bronze 6 Commended 16
2013: Gold 5 Silver 10 Bronze 9 Commended N/A
Must-list status:  100%
Overall SWA performance 2014: C+

Sauvignon Blanc entries jumped this year, allowing the grape narrowly to hold on to its status as ‘biggest New World White’ variety. But whereas there was a good deal of excitement surrounding the new, elegant style of New World Chardonnay, our tasters didn’t detect similar levels of progress here.

The best performance came from Chile, with three Gold-Listed wines and a hatful of well-priced Silvers. While there were some complaints about rising prices, on the plus side two distinct styles are emerging from its key Sauvignon regions.

Casablanca delivered mostly cheap, easy-drinking, fruit-forward expressions that could be handy by the glass and would be easily understood by customers.

Leyda, while it’s clearly still a young region with a fair spread of styles, is starting to settle in half-way between Kiwi exuberance and Old World restraint; like taking a food hamper to a Dizzee Rascal gig. Crucially, many of the wines did have minerality, and once the failures had been removed they were a popular flight.

‘Leyda needs to be described and communicated as a special spot in Chile,’ said 45 Park Lane’s Vanessa Cinti. ‘I think there would be no problem getting people to trade up – and stay in Chile – once they try these wines.’

South Africa was unable to replicate its startling success with Chardonnay in terms of medals, and the feedback was markedly more subdued as well. Stylistically the wines were all over the place, and while there were some good examples, generally our tasters found too much of everything, with perfume, weight, sweetness and acidity engaged in a kind of high-stakes game of ‘chicken’ that didn’t make for pleasurable drinking.

As for the new, restrained styles of New Zealand Sauvignon that we tend to find in this section rather than in the Varietal Classics category, the tasters liked them – though with the caveat that such an atypical style would need careful explaining to the punters.

As might the pricing. Last year, four out of our five Gold-Listed wines here were under £10. This year, we managed only two out of seven…

FOOTNOTE: New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc costing less than £12 ex-VAT can be entered either here or in the relevant Varietal Classic category.

From The Tasting Teams

‘[The South Africans] were mainly wines on steroids. Big fragrance, big acidity, but nothing you want to spend some time with.’ Nigel Lister, team leader

‘The Leyda wines had good acidity and freshness. Some herbaceousness, but balanced with great minerality, and a hint of tropical fruit, which would pair very well with fleshier fish or dishes like ceviche.’ Vanessa Cinti, 45 Park Lane

‘As we moved up the flight [of New Zealand Sauvignons], there was less typicity. So a sommelier would be helpful to explain the style of the more expensive wines.’ Guillaume Dherouville, La Cave a Fromage