Jean Smullen takes us on a journey from New Zealand to Italy
The grape with the greatest “rock star” credentials these days, must surely be Sauvignon Blanc. It seems there is a global industry dedicated soley to its promotion. This year the 12th edition of International Sauvignon Blanc Day takes place today, Friday 7th May, 2021, so we’re going to celebrate with New Zealand’s most Iconic Sauvignon Blanc, otherwise known as the “Mother Ship”. After that, we’re off to Italy, to look at another classic wine style, Chianti, soon to be available in the SuperValu Italian Wine Sale which starts on May 20th, the weekend definitely starts here!
2020 Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc RRP €35.60
Stockists: available nationwide from independent retailers including Higgins Clonskeagh; Redmonds, Ranelagh; The Corkscrew, Chatham St; Morton & Sons, Rathgar; Jus De Vine, Portmarnock; Bradleys Cork; The Wine Centre, Kilkenny; Ardkeen Waterford, McCambridges, Galway; Select SuperValu and Dunnes Stores, nationwide O'Briens, (36 shops) and Donnybrook Fair, Morehampton Road, Donnybrook; Baggot Street, Dublin 4; Stillorgan; Malahide and Greystones.
When it comes to the choice of grape varieties preferred by the Irish consumer, Sauvignon Blanc is the most popular grape on the Irish market, out-performing all other varieties by over 50%. New Zealand was where a humble vine that grows wild (sauvage) in southwest France became a wine world superstar. As the adventurous young winemakers who planted New Zealand's first Sauvignon vines in the 1970s discovered, a happy combination of ideal climatic conditions and skilful viticulture and winemaking transformed the qualities of the grape into the characteristic "green" aromas and mouth-filling tastes of classic New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. So obviously today we’re going to look at the “mother ship” Cloudy Bay.
Sauvignon Blanc is New Zealand’s most widely planted grape variety. The Marlborough region was first planted 142 years ago, yet it is only a mere 35 years since Cloudy Bay put New Zealand on the global wine map in 1986. By the early 1990’s Sauvignon Blanc was firmly established as New Zealand’s flagship grape with international demand increasing every year. Today it accounts for 66% of New Zealand’s total wine production.
In 1973, as Marlborough’s first Sauvignon Blanc vines were being planted, no one could have imagined the superstar status it would achieve. Pungently aromatic, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc assails the senses with red capsicum (bell peppers) and gooseberry characters, lush passionfruit and tropical fruit notes. Fresh cut grass, tomato stalk and lime flavours added to the mix give this wine style its enormous appeal.
This year, why not celebrate Ireland's favourite grape with the iconic Cloudy Bay New Zealand’s most recognized winery. The 2020 Sauvignon Blanc vintage is now available in Ireland and is one of the best from recent years.
The growing season of 2019/2020, was good and the fruit that came into the winery was as close to perfect as could be imagined. It was a slightly cooler vintage than 2019 but the 2020 Sauvignon Blanc shows a remarkable balance and refined acidity. Speaking about the wine, Jim White, Cloudy Bay’s Technical Director, said the proof of the vintage is in the glass, “The 2020 vintage release is everything a Cloudy Bay Sauvignon should be, concentrated and vibrant, with beautiful citrus and stone fruit character, but also that certain subtlety and poise that has built its worldwide reputation”
2019 Baffo Rosse Chianti €13.99
Stockists: SuperValu, nationwide
SuperValu are holding an Italian Wine Sale which will start on Thursday 20th May, 2021 and run for three weeks until June 10th. They have some super Italian wines on offer including this one which will be on sale for €9.00 for the duration of the promotion. The Irish wine drinker LOVES Italian wines and this is borne out by the figures. In the last decade sales of Italian wine in SuperValu have leaped from 3% to 13% and last year they sold over 3 million bottles of Italian wine.
Today on Movies & Booze we are featuring this very modern style Chianti made by a Tuscan family wine estate Castellani. Chianti is a large wine region in Tuscany where Chianti is produced in seven distinct zones and adjacent areas that cover a vast territory of central Tuscany. The region centres around the area known as Chianti Classico, which has a its own DOCG. What Chianti has in common with all of the other regional red wines produced in Tuscany is that production centres around the Sangiovese grape.
Tuscany’s modern renaissance in wine began in Chianti, in the central hills around Siena and Florence. Three years ago in May 2018 I visited to the Poggio al Casone Estate in Tuscany run by the
Castellani family who operate six large estates in Tuscany. We stayed at the Tuscan Villa of Piergiorgo Castellani who lives at Casone and makes this wine.
The family have been in the wine business since the 19th century and today they produce approximately 25 million bottles of wine, which is shipped to 46 countries. Their philosophy, introduced by Piergiorgo, twenty years ago, when his first child was born is definitely not about mass production. In fact, on the Casone Estate, Piergiorgo introduced organic farming and as a result the soil on the estate is in magnificent condition with oats, vetch and acacia flowers growing between the vines. This is the finest example of sustainable viticulture you are going to find.
The Baffo Rosso that we are featuring today is a very modern style of Chianti. The label sporting a playful moustache is a step away from the traditional style. This wine has lashings of strawberry fruit and spice and is a very modern style of Chianti. Fresh with lots of vibrant acidity, this newer style has a softer, rounder mouth feel which makes it easier to drink and will appeal to a younger audience. This is new style Sangiovese, that still retains the best expression of the grape, which Tuscany is capable of without moving away too far from the region’s classic style. Affordable and very drinkable, make sure you try this one out when the sale is on!
Another new kid on the block this year is Bag in Box. Traditionally it never held any appeal for the Irish consumer, but now that is set to change. With more outdoor dining, entertaining the wine box is now being more seriously looked at by the Irish retailer, so expect to see more of em. What’s not to like? The 3 litre box offers great value, while also being mindful of the environment. Bag in Box is simply a re-cycleable cardboard box with a plastic pouch inside; which definitely makes it more environmentally friendly than its equivalent, four large heavy bottles. Although initially Bag in Box will cost about €30 to buy, it actually offer great value. Usually an open box which contains a vacuum-sealed bag that prevents air from getting in and oxidizing, can be kept for up to six weeks. Which compares favourably to a few days for wine in a bottle. This May, as part of their Italian wine sale, SuperValu have the Barone Montalto Passivento on offer in Bag In Box (3lt)r for €28, most definitely worth a try.
Wine Events: Don’t miss the on-line Thistledown Wine Tasting featuring award winning Australian wines made by Irish Master of Wine & Wine Maker Fergal Tynan. The tasting takes place on May 14th and there are still some places available. Details on https://jeansmullen.com/