A fussy grape to grow, it can produce lively, almost fizzing young reds with juicy, cherry flavours, as well as more concentrated, long-lived, oak-matured reds with superb, savoury, herb and spice flavours and great finesse. Ongoing colonel selection in Chianti Classic designed to reverse the rush to plant productive clones is helping the process of improving Sangiovese-based wines in Italy. Sangiovese is widespread in Argentina thanks to the influx of Italian immigrants and has become fashionable in California and, to a more limited extent, in Australia.
Sauvignon Blanc (white)
It divides into two clear styles characterised by the fragrant, zingy fresh Loire Valley style reminiscent of cut-grass, gooseberry, flint and nettles, and the contrasting Bordeaux-style, often blended with Semillon and Muscadelle and barrel-fermented to produce the richer, if less assertive, food friendly dry whites of Pessac-Leognan in the Graves. At the same time, it is a component in the sweet, rich and luscious whites of Sauternes and Barsac. It can do well in cooler areas within Europe, including parts of Austria and Hungary. In New Zealand's Marlborough, it produces a stunning array of pungently, assertive characters, from the green grass, green bean, tinned pea and asparagus flavours to the more tropical, ripe spectrum of grapefruit, guava, passion fruit and mango. The Sauvignon cause has also been taken up to good and affordable effect by Chile and South Africa, whose cooler spots are proving ideal for this wonderfully zingy, fresh grape variety.
What does it taste like?
- from gooseberry to tropical passion fruit
- aromas of elderflower and blackcurrant leaf
SAUVIGNON BLANC is at its most fragrant and fresh in the cooler climate of the Loire Valley where cut-grass, nettles, elderflower, blackcurrant leaf and gooseberries are the key flavours with minerally, zesty, flinty undertones. It is at its most assertive in the pungently catty, elderfloral style of Marlborough in New Zealand, where, depending on ripeness levels it ranges from green bean, tinned pea and asparagus flavours and the riper, more tropical characters of grapefruit, guava, passion fruit and mango.
It is at its most illustrious in the humid atmosphere of Sauternes and Barsac, where its susceptibility to noble rot concentrates the fruit sugars and acids in the grapes to produce some of the most luscious, sweet wines in the world, most notably that of Chateau d'Yquem, a blend of four-fifths semillon, one-fifth Sauvignon Blanc.
On its own, it is responsible for some of Australia's most individual dry whites, in particular those from the Hunter Valley, which develop a buttered toast character with age, while the richer, fuller-bodied, lemony Barossa Valley Semillons can also be excellent.
Generally, its richness and body is often used to complement the aromatic Sauvignon, although in cool, maritime climates such as New Zealand, it can develop pungently grassy characteristics. Semillon, often spelt with the accent dropped outside France, is also widespread in South and North America, and it's planted in eastern Europe and South Africa too, where it never quite scales the heights achieved in France and Australia.
What does it taste like?
- lime citrus and honey
- lusciously sweet and marmaladey
SEMILLON varies in character considerably according to its region of origin. In Bordeaux blends with sauvignon, it can be citrusy with a lanoline-textured, waxy, honeyed richness, while Hunter Valley semillon famously develops lime and buttered toast flavours with age, in contrast to the more pungently grass and asparagus-like characteristics associated with cooler climates. Made as a sweet wine, it makes some of the world's most lusciously sweet, exotically marmaladey whites.
St Laurent (red)
It is the great red grape of the northern Rhône where it reaches its apogee in the deep-hued, muscular, long-lived wines of Hermitage and Côte Rôtie. It is a component of southern Rhône reds and the fastest growing grape in Franc's Languedoc region, where it has been introduced as an improving variety. As Shiraz, it is Australia's most important red variety, where it forms the backbone of Grange, Australia's most famous red, and is grown with increasing confidence in South Africa and Argentina.
What does it taste like?
- smoke and blackberry
- ccol climate pepper and mint
SYRAH produces dark red wines whose purest incarnation in the northern Rhône produces a wine with memorable aromas which can be smoky, floral, peppery, minty or spicy and often linked to a kind of medicinal or creosote-like character. Cool climates, whether northern Rhône or Victoria and parts of Western Australia, bring out the mint, pepperiness and the spice in the SYRAH, while the warmer it gets the more it changes from raspberry to blackberry, becoming chocolatey and, with age, tarry and gamey.