This year's Decanter World Wine Awards International Trophy for the Best in Show Sauvignon Blanc over £15 went to Jean-Paul Balland, Grande Cuvée, Sancerre, Loire, France 2012 (13.2%)

Tasted against:

  • Casa Marin, Cipreses Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, San Antonio, Chile 2013
  • Pullus, Sauvignon G, Podravje, Slovenia 2013
  • Spy Valley, Envoy Sauvignon Blanc, Waihopai Valley, Marlborough, New Zealand 2012
  • Tokara, Reserve Collection Sauvignon Blanc, Elgin, South Africa 2013

Profile:

‘A triumph of fruit over sweat!’ was one of our judges’ assertions when it came to adjudicating on who should take this Trophy home. And it’s heading to Sauvignon Blanc’s heartland, with a wine that won easily, thanks to its effortless charm, panache and superb expression of fruit.

At age 14, Jean-Paul Balland began working with his parents Bernard and Anne-Marie on their hillside vineyards in the Sancerre village of Bué. Over 40 years he has expanded the domaine to its current 24 hectares, of which 18ha are Sauvignon Blanc and the balance Pinot Noir. Still very much a family affair, his daughter Elise takes care of sales, while another daughter, Isabelle, has been winemaker since 2005.

‘My father taught me that wine is a living element and to respect it as such,’ says Isabelle. ‘Each vintage has its own characteristics and challenges. It’s like teaching children: they all need education, but each of them need raising in a slightly different way.’

Unsurprisingly the Ballands are great advocates of Sauvignon Blanc as a means of transmitting the nuances of their particular terroir, and they love the aromas and freshness that they find it brings to their Sancerre wines.

The 2012 Grande Cuvée – made in what the Ballands believe is a great, ‘classic’ vintage – is grown on a 1.5ha plot of the oldest vines on the estate, averaging more than 50 years. Calcareous soil yields a naturally aromatic, fruity wine for which indigenous yeasts are used. Vinification, from fermentation to blending, is done in traditional 600-litre barrels which, while new, do not impart overt flavours but add richness and structure. ‘Sauvignon is very sensitive, and for us, the grape, not the wood, is the star.’ 22,000 bottles of this Trophy-winner were made.

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Written by Decanter