Shana Speaks Wine

Wine Journalist, Copywriter, and Marketing Consultant

Drinking out loud. 

Old School vs New Skool: Sauvignon Blanc

A common misperception people have when thinking about their wine preferences is thinking about wine only by grapes types (guilty as charged). Yes, grape varieties do have individual characteristics, but the influence of region and production style can produce wide-ranging results (hello, chardonnay).  Often, this boils down to Old World Wines versus New World Wines.

Say Wha?
In the most basic sense, Old World Wines are produced in countries with a long history of winemaking (France, Italy, etc.) while New World regions are only a couple of centuries into the game (California, New Zealand, Australia, etc.).  However, the terms also refer to style. Old World wine are very expressive of the "place" where wines originate and allow the soil, climate and tradition to affect the wines.  This collectively is referred to as terroir.  New World styles, on the other hand, put the grapes in the spotlight and try to produce wines that fully express the flavor of those little orbs.  Often, this leads to more earth-driven and savory characteristics in O.W. wines and more fruit in N.W. wines (but not a hard and fast rule).   Of course, in the global economy, some O.W. regions are trying N.W. techniques and vice versa, which can make things a little blurry, but definitely something to watch as the industry keeps evolving.

So, the better question is: am I Old School or New Skool?  Skeptical?  Let me prove it to you.

Today, we did a tasting of Sauvignon Blanc wines, one from the Loire Valley in France and one from Marlborough in New Zealand. Sauv Blanc is a grape with grassy, herbaceous and citrus characteristics.  After a brief love affair with the grape when I first started drinking wine, I went through a string of cheap dive-bar Sauv Blancs, enough to put me off the varietal, but I was interested to see how an O.W. classic compared with a N.W. region that has become renowned for quality Sauv Blancs. Contenders, to your corners.

The Old World
Domaine de Reuilly Les Pierres Plates, Sauvignon Blanc, Loire, FR 2010 - This wine came from the Loire Valley in France, and area known for quality white Sauv Blancs, such as Sancerre.  The wine is grown in Kimmeridgian soil, which is often attributed as being a key component in quality Burgundy wines.  On the nose, soft citrus notes, such as mandarin, along with a bit of grassiness, appeared.  On the palate, the gentler citrus fruits again appeared plus a refreshening herbaceousness.  In addition,  minerality presented itself throughout the sip. The texture on this wine was rather intriguing, as the citrus notes would lead one to believe it would be quite astringent; rather, there was a soft creaminess in the mouth that rounded out the flavors in an extraordinary way.

The New World 
Astrolabe Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, NZ, 2011 - Marlborough in the main production center for wine in New Zealand.  As the country is newer entrant into the global wine market, a large focus is on modern vineyard technology and wine-production techniques. The country is also recognized as a forerunner in championing the characteristics of Sauv Blanc as a grape. On the nose, bright, fruity citrus, such as pink grapefruit, came through strongly, plus notes of green grass.  On the palate, the fruit and herbaceousness followed through with the addition of a kiwi essence.  Again, the palate surprised.  There was lower acidity than expected and I thought it would be brighter in the mouth. Instead, it felt a little softer but unlike the Reuilly, it wasn't a creamy softness, it was more of a flatness.

Lesson learned?  Both exhibited some similar characteristics, but the fruit came through in different levels.  The Old World wine showcased more mineral and savory tones while the New World wine stayed true to the fruit.  Finally, the different regions changed the texture and finish of both.  

So, are you Old School or New Skool?