JWL Issue #103: A bit about sauvignon gris

July 6, 2020

July shipments have been landing on doorsteps for the last few days. These are the first two wines we've imported ourselves so it's a particularly special time for us.

Last October, we were visiting the Dordogne tasting our way through rich truffle dishes and a lot of local wine. The Dordogne shares a lot of characteristics with the wine of Bordeaux, which is just a few hours west. There are a lot of cabernet-merlot blends with plentiful tannins and a lot of white wines dominated by sauvignon blanc.

If you drink very locally like that, much blends into one another. So when a producer does stand out, you take notice. Château Le Payral was one such producer. Their range is varied from some exceptional dessert wines through to very natural whites. The Petite Le Fugue we've sent out is organically grown, spends a long time on lees, and is led by sauvignon gris. A full-bodied and wonderfully textured treat.

A few months before, we had travelled a little around Italy. Italy is a country whose wine I am far less familiar with than the more local France, but more often than not these days I find a lot more pleasure in its wines. Cantine Volpi is a family winery that has now seen five generations at the helm. They've got some fantastic grapes you won't have heard of like timorasso, but their barbera from Colli Tortonesi jumped out so well for me. This is a bold but elegant barbera and a really great display of the grape and terroir.

It's very happy days in Wine List towers. We've also listened to what you've all said – that you want better access to the wine. You will be able to buy from our surplus store by this Friday – for subscribers and newsletter readers as well. We'll be sharing the answers for the wines at the same time.


If you liked July's wines...

If you liked our La Zerba barbera, then head to Waitrose and grab Araldica Barbera d'Asti Superiore (£7.49). This is really nicely smoky with a melding of red and black fruits beneath it. 

If Le Petite Fugue was more your thing, then there's a few directions to go. First, it's incredibly rare to find a sauvignon gris dominant wine, Co-op currently have one from New Zealand at £10 per bottle that's well worthy of a taste. Especially considering sauvignon blanc's reputation in New Zealand, you'll recognise the fuller mouthfeel and more textured body here too. 

If you want to try another French gris, then check out Bordeaux house Le Coin. While mainly a red producer, their sauvignon gris white is available from Laithwaite's for £11.49. You'll recognise the acidity here that you expect from Bordeaux blanc, but then again the richness and added spice separate this out.


Talk gris to me

Sauvignon gris is a mutant of the infamous sauvignon blanc, and represents just 2% of nearby Bordeaux's white wine plantings.

It brings florality, fuller body and more power to wines than its mutant namesake. Sauvignon blanc, thanks to the astronomical rise of Marlborough's, is now world-renowned. Aromas typically include gooseberry, grapefruit, as well as tropical and stone fruits.

As well as featuring in some Bordeaux Blanc, it also features in some Loire whites as well. Though not allowed in certain appellations, such as Sancerre. In Loire's Touraine AOC, it can also go by the name of fié gris.

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