Concours Mondial du Sauvignon Blanc: A Major League Game

by | 3 Aug, 2010

Some of the world’s best Sauvignon Blancs rallied in Bordeaux to be judged by 38 experts. The result: The variety’s versatile, fresh and deep game proved its aptitude to play in the major leagues.

For quite a while, Sauvignon Blanc had been begging for some field time. But his all-time rival, Chardonnay, is ambitious and conceited, like most big stars, and therefore used every chance to overshadow it. Sauvignon Blanc was forced to bench, still nervous, acidic and slightly annoyed. That is, until its time to shine came: in Bordeaux, 38 international judges confirmed its capacity to play in the world’s major leagues thanks to its sleek technique and great adaptability.

We all agreed that this is perhaps the variety that best reflects the characteristics of a terroir. We were truly amazed with its incredible versatility. Bordeaux Sauvignons are fruity and balanced; Loire Sauvignons are more mineral, with a deep, edgy acidity; New Zealand Sauvignons have a wilder character that blends herbal and tropical notes; Southern Italy’s Sauvignons feel riper, smokier and less acidic; and Chilean Sauvignons have a fresh, spicy side marked by the Pacific ocean breeze.

The first Concours Mondial du Sauvignon Blanc, organized jointly by ODG de Bordeaux, Bordeaux Supérieur and the Concours Mondial de Bruxelles, included 512 samples from France, Chile, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain and Italy, among others. The samples were blind tasted in two sessions preceded by a seminar delivered at the Institut des Sciences de la Vigne et du Vin (ISVV), where French enologist Denis Dubourdieu, who is considered the father of this cultivar in Bordeaux, described its aromatic potential and explained its great capacity to express many different origins.

Those who see it as a second-class variety, without the elegance of Chardonnay, should look again. Discovering its multiple personalities is really fascinating. Sometimes, it is hard to believe we are in the presence of the same variety.

We tasted the famous Sauvignon Blancs produced by Dubourdieu himself in one of his properties: Château Reynon (Cadillac, Premières Côtes du Bordeaux). A warm, friendly and seducing style. On the other hand, during the seminar we encountered screw caps instead of cork and filled our palates with the herbal and spicy notes from New Zealand and Chile.

The judges made bets on the origin of the samples.

Friuli? Loire? Languedoc-Roussillon? Entre-deux-Mers? It’s all very clear. Sauvignon Blanc has become an increasingly relevant category that really deserves a dedicated competition. It features a multitude of aromatic layers ranging from fresh herbal notes to voluptuous tropical fruit. Furthermore, in some areas it develops complex smoked tones; a graceful, firm and athletic body and a powerful natural acidity that at times touches the soul.

In Chile, in just a few years, it has consolidated its importance, becoming second only to Cabernet Sauvignon. With more than 11,000 hectares planted, more than Merlot and Carmenère, it has deployed its manifold and attractive personalities, opening the door to a new generation of multi-colored, limpid and fresh wines issued from rigorous soil and climate studies, not from chance as was the case just a couple of decades ago.

Not by accident did Chile submit to this first competition the largest amount of samples behind France. and not by chance did Casa Marín Cipreses Vineyard 2009 win the unoaked category over 12 pounds. Our country’s Sauvignon Blanc has become an important global category. The next step is to get international experts to talk not only about Chile, but also about Casablanca, San Antonio, Limarí or Maule. To have them familiarize themselves with the different terroirs and to know how these reflect in the wines produced.


Unoaked under € 12Michel Laurent 2009, Sancerre, France

Unoaked over € 12Casa Marín Cipreses Vineyard 2009, San Antonio, Chile

OakedChâteau Penin 2009, Bordeaux, France                                                                                  Rose de Sigoulès 2009, Bergerac, France

Unoaked blendGhirlandaia 2009, Toscana, Italy

Oaked blend: Tokara Director’s Reserve 2008, Stellenbosch, South Africa



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