When I was planning last night’s wine club three weeks ago I thought for sure it would be time to celebrate the warm weather with our first white tasting of the year. Alas winter seems to have returned to Rome but the wines tasted great just the same. One of my favorite things to do is to taste different expressions of the same grape, so last night we looked at French and Italian Sauvignon Blanc. One of my favorite grapes, sauvignon blanc is one of the parents of one of the world’s most popular varieties: cabernet sauvignon. It dates to the 18th century and like its progeny, its home is Bordeaux. Since then it has spread throughout the world and is now successfully grown in California, New Zealand, South Africa, Chile...the list goes on! My idea was to take two of the most representative areas from the most accessible countries, Sancerre from France and Fruili Venezia Giulia from Italy. The Sancerres turned out to be a bit too pricey for the purposes of this tasting so instead I went with four wines from Friuli, a wine from Pouilly-Fumé (not far from Sancerre) and one from Bordeaux. We had an interesting lineup in terms of vintages; they ranged over nine years. Three were from 2008, one from 2007, one 2009 and one from 2000. I wanted to taste the six wines blind to see if we could figure out which ones were French. A great idea; unfortunately I completely forgot about the Bordeaux in the vegetable crisper (the only space left in the fridge!) so this one was tasted on its own at the end. (Note to self: while owning a mini fridge I might have to give up my sourdough starter and various other kitchen experiments that take up all the space!) The other five wines were disguised and tasted blind. The good news was fellow sommelier Sarah and I both correctly identified number two as our Pouilly-Fumé ! All the others (with the exception of the wine that was clearly 10 years old) had the tell-tale signs of Friulian sauvignon blanc: lots of citrus, lemons, grapefruits, crisp acidity, medium body. The big clue about number two was the pronounced stony, steely quality it had that for me marks the biggest difference between Italian and classic French sauvignon blanc. Friulian wines tend not to have this characteristic. The 2000 was a bit of an anomaly, having not only a good few years on the others, but it was also the only one to have been aged in oak. While the wine was still very much alive, too much of the fruit had faded away and we were left with an overpowering sensation of the oak with lots of buttery, smoky, toasted hazelnut flavors, which, while pleasant, were a bit unbalanced.
The line up for the evening:
1. Collio Sauvignon Blanc Marco Felluga 2009
2. Pouilly-Fumé Les Pierres de Pierre 2007 Domaine Masson-Blondelet
3. Colli Orientali dei Friuli Sauvignon 2008 Livio Felluga
4. Colli Orientali del Friuli Sauvignon Ronc de Juri 2000 Dorigo
5. Sauvignon Venezia Giulia 2008 Jermann
6. Bordeaux Sauvignon Blanc 2008 Château Reynon
My favorites of the night were one and two. Happy drinking!