Marlborough or Loire - the decision that lovers of Sauvignon Blanc usually ponder as they browse the wine aisles. Stephen Brook chooses the best of both kinds from this popular grape...

In the 1990s, it became clear to me that there are two opposed schools of thought on Sauvignon Blanc. No self-respecting Loire grower would deliberately aim for vegetal characters; on the other hand many New Zealand growers do precisely that. The most obvious explanation for the Marlborough style is that consumers like it; consequently, wine companies produce it. As with Beaujolais Nouveau, you create a stereotype, encourage a trend and then sit back while everyone follows it. It’s not for me to say that consumers are duty bound to prefer the French style. If wine drinkers seek out vegetal wines and consume them with pleasure, that is their right. (I say that, but, to be honest, don’t entirely believe it.)

See Stephen Brook’s 22 Sauvignon Blancs from New Zealand and the Loire:

Didier Dagueneau, Silex 2011,Sauvignon Blanc

Didier Dagueneau, Silex 2011

Spicy, stylish nose. Rich and full-bodied, taut and firm, with great concentration, minerality...

Points 95
Chateau de Tracy 2012, Sauvignon Blanc

Chateau de Tracy 2012

Chateau de Tracy 2012 Rating: 18/20pts Ripe apricot nose. Rich and suave, spicy and lively, concentrated, some lees influence yet More…

Points 93
Chatelain, Chailloux Silex 2010

Chatelain, Chailloux Silex 2010

Delicate green pea nose. Creamy and full-bodied, with good weight of fruit and concentration.

Points 90
Vacheron, Romains 2011

Vacheron, Romains 2011

Very ripe apricot nose, some citrus too. Full-bodied, creamy, and concentrated, this also has fine acidity...

Points 93
Bourgeois, Monts Damnés 2010

Bourgeois, Monts Damnés 2010

Mouthwatering citric nose, very stylish and quite exotic too. Juicy and full-bodied...

Points 91
François Crochet, Exils 2011

François Crochet, Exils 2011

Lightly smoky nose. Rich, broad, and full with spicy, tangy citrus fruit. This has drive and energy...

Points 91
Daniel Chotard 2012

Daniel Chotard 2012

Floral, appley nose. Mid-bodied, juicy and ripe, yet has finesse and balance...

Points 90
Pellé, Morogues 2012

Pellé, Morogues 2012

Ripe grassy nose with gooseberry. Lively and concentrated, with good acidity...

Points 88

The Bourgeois family in Sancerre is unique in that it owns vineyards in Marlborough too. Jean-Christophe Bourgeois told me: ‘I was an international judge at a competition in South Africa in 1997 and there was a clear divide. The southern hemisphere judges rewarded herbaceous wines, while the northern judges preferred fruity, fresher ones. The divide seems less marked today.’ Lionel Bourgeois, who makes the wines at both estates, agrees that New Zealand wines are becoming more European. And a few producers such as Seresin have always adopted a more French style of Sauvignon.

Lionel Bourgeois points to the huge differences in approach to farming Sauvignon Blanc. ‘New Zealand growers irrigate a lot, so the vines are more vigorous and less stressed. Also yields are far higher. Our neighbours in Marlborough crop at two or three times our levels. Vine density is much lower than in France, so there is less competition between vines and less reduction in vigour. We only irrigate young vines as we want the roots to descend to find minerals and water. New Zealand growers analyse for sugar and acidity and then decide when to harvest. Here in Sancerre we taste the grapes constantly and don’t analyse them until they’re pressed. We do that in Marlborough too.’