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1997: Le Prix du Champagne Lanson Noble Cuvée Award for investigations into Champagne for the Millennium investment scams

2001: Le Prix Champagne Lanson Ivory Award for

2011: Vindic d'Or MMXI – 'Meilleur blog anti-1855'

2011: Robert M. Parker, Jnr: ‘This blogger...’:

2012: Born Digital Wine Awards: No Pay No Jay – best investigative wine story

2012: International Wine Challenge – Personality of the Year Award

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Oaked Sauvignon Blanc: how does the Loire compare to the Bordeaux? A question of size?

Yesterday I was happy to be at a fascinating and well organised tasting – a comparison of the aging potential oaked of Sauvignon Blanc from Bordeaux and from the Loire. The Bordeaux component was organised Richard Bampfield MW and Jean-Christophe Mau, while Chris Kissack – the wine doctor – occupied the Loire selection. The idea was to show a relatively recent vintage along with an older one. 

I have to say from the outset that having tasted all the wines I felt no need to change my allegiance away from the Loire. Where the oak on the Loires was well judged, it was often marked on those from Bordeaux. 

Just to show that this wasn't just my bias but Jean-Christophe generously praised the Loire Sauvignons in the report in The Drinks Business:

'Also at the tasting was Jean-Christophe Mau, owner and manager of Pessac-Leognan estate Château Brown. Commenting on the comparison of oaked Sauvignon Blancs from the Loire Valley and Bordeaux, Mau said he believed the Bordeaux region was lagging behind the Loire in terms of style and value.

“I think they have too much oak, the Bordeaux style, too much extraction also,” he said. “And maybe the acidity is not at a good level; sometimes it is too high.

“For a lot of people who make wine in Bordeaux it’s more important to make red than white. The vision for white is maybe too much a vision of the red.

“For most of the people the top quality from Sauvignon is from the Loire Valley. We have begun to change that in Bordeaux but the prices for the top wine, I think, are too expensive.”

All of the Loires shown came from the Central Vineyards, so a continental climate in contrast to the maritime climate of Bordeaux. In an sense it wasn't entirely a comparison of equals as all the Loire wines were pure Sauvignons, while from Bordeaux there were no pure varietal Sauvignons: all were blends. Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte with 90% Sauvignon Blanc had the highest proportion with just 5% each of Sauvignon Gris and Sémillon. 

I suspect that the reason for the Loire's success in the delicate use of oak comes down to the region's long experiment – now virtually a tradition – of little use of barriques – either 225 or 228 litres. Instead 400 to 600 litre barrels (demi-muids) and increasing small wooden vats, often from Stockinger. This immediately reduces the influence of the oak as the proportion of liquid to oak is increased.      
My grateful thanks to the organisers: Chris, Jean-Christophe and Richard. 

The Loire Sauvignons (details to add):

From Bordeaux: Y

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