Sauvignon gris from New Zealand and some other spectacular but affordable whites

16 Feb

The Wine Wanderers have felt silenced these past few months by a visit to Lyon, where we drank just too much wonderful wine and found ourselves divided between the joys of Burgundy and Rhone, a question which also regularly taxes the Lyonnais.   But it did remind us of how much we adore a fine, white Burgundy  and how nothing quite substitutes for that classy, buttery hit mitigated with a hint of flint which is a simply sumptuous partner for a great piece of fish or a top-class chicken.

Meursault and Montrachet are beyond us at British prices, but our Christmas came early this year courtesy of a Waitrose promotion which included their own-label White Burgundy.   Even at the regular price of £8.99, this chardonnay from 40-year-old vines is a steal at any time of year; it tastes as if it should cost at least 50% more, and when regularly promoted at 25% off, like a bottle twice the price.

This is one of the wines we feel moved to buy by the case when on special, and it’s about to be joined by another supermarket find.   Sauvignon gris is much less well-known to British imbibers than the sauvignon gris which can be superb at its best but quite indifferent at its worst.

The sauvignon gris just tasted from Brancott, New Zealand winemakers who pioneered the original Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, have come up with a spectacular new wine which has all that “cat’s pee under a gooseberry bush” quality you associate with a great Loire white.   Green, mineral and utterly seductive.    This IWSC gold medal winner seems a better buy at £10.49 than Brancott’s not so special sauv blanc, and just a shame Sainsburys aren’t listing it yet, though Tesco, ASDA and Ocado, active promoters all, have added it.    Will make it in bulk to our own trolleys once we spot it at £8 or less, though worth every penny of the full price.

If sauvignon gris deserves to be better known, so does roussanne, a white grape which usually only makes it into blends yet  can be spectacular on its own.   I enjoyed my first 100 per cent roussanne in a restaurant in Jaffa two years ago – it was a revelation – and my second a few weeks ago in Tucson’s great western restaurant, Cowboy Ciao.   That one was made in Washington state and unlikely to make it over here, but happily the Tabor Adama roussanne from Israel has started shipping here now.   Not quite so affordable at £15.99, but it has been available on promotion through Amazon for £14 a bottle, and is worth keeping a lookout for – classy and delicious.

More white wine grapes are being planted in Israel all the time, and producing bottles which are a knockout in the hands of experienced winemakers.   Small production has kept prices high, but as wineries get bigger – Tabor had a huge cash injection from Coca-Cola, who have had the sense to give their talented agronomist and winemaker full autonomy, and Dalton, founded by Brits, is one of the largest in Israel making quality wine – affordable bottles really worth drinking are coming on-stream.    Watch this space for comment about Dalton’s Fume Blanc, another grape flourishing far from its original home.

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