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Vinexpo Sauvignon challenge: The Results

Nine expert tasters from three continents picked their top Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc from this years Vinexpo in Bordeaux

Five days, 48,000 visitors and 2,500 exhibitors – this was the huge machine that was Vinexpo 2003. Held in Bordeaux every two years, the wine trade’s largest exhibition is a chance to take the pulse of winemaking today, and visitors travel from around the world to take part. In our July 2003 issue, we reported that three international teams (from Europe, the Far East and the US) would scour the fair on behalf of Decanter, to find the best, most exciting examples of Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc in the wine world – and to pinpoint the most promising upcoming regions.


Three teams of tasters from three continents took three days to find the wines which they felt best expressed varietal character. To be eligible the wine had to contain at least 60% of the grape variety. We then gathered the favourites together for a taste-off by all nine tasters.

Top performers

Two New World Cabernet Sauvignons and a Sauvignon Blanc from Sancerre took pole position in the taste-off, garnering the most points (although two other wines in each category also earned four stars).


The winning Sauvignon Blanc was Le MD de Bourgeois 2002 from Sancerre producer Henri Bourgeois. Four of the nine tasters chose Sancerre as the best expression of Sauvignon Blanc at the show, showing that this Old World classic remains a firm favourite around the world.

As for the Cabernets, it was the New World that triumphed. Shafer Hillside Select 1999 from the Napa Valley and Los Vascos Grande Reserve 2001 from Domaines Barons de Rothschild took joint honours.

There were no marked differences in palate between the teams. However, the US team’s top wines in both categories were from the New World, while the Europeans generally chose from the Old World. The team from the Far East fell between the two, with three French, one South African, one Chilean and one Israeli wine.


Sauvignon Blanc Henri Bourgeois, Le MD de Bourgeois, Sancerre, France 2002**** ‘Good intensity, lots of mineral characters, fresh aromas. High acidity, good weight on the palate with lots of mineral characters, long fresh palate. Up to 2 years.’ (CG) £10.75; L&W

Springfield Estate, Special Cuvée, Robertson, South Africa 2002 **** ‘Discreet citrus nose, herbal/mineral. Good acidity on palate, good fruit weight, fresh finish. Drink now.’ (JL) £45.42 (case 6); Evy

The Crossings, Catherine’s Run, Marlborough, New Zealand 2001**** ‘Floral, blossom and lovely texture, subtle wood in background. Brisk but silky. Up to 4 years.’ (NR) £49.86 per c/s of 6; Evy

Domaine Mouthes Le Bihan, Pérette et les Noisettes, Côtes de Duras, France 2001*** ‘Ageing nose of honey, oak, but powerful and complex. Lovely attack, rich, complete, minerally. 5–10 years.’ (EM) N/A UK

Eric Louis, Les Celliers de la Pauline, Sancerre, France 1999 *** ‘Clear, pale, brilliant. White flowers, grapefruits. Medium body. Natural taste. 3 years.’ (KS) £8.25; Odd

Fournier Père & Fils, Sancerre, France 2002*** ‘Very aromatic – guavas and tropical fruits. Fresh, dry finish. Rich, ripe fruit. Up to 2 years.’ (PTC) £108.40 (case 12); Evy

Pascal Jolivet, Les Caillottes, Sancerre, France 2002*** ‘Wet stones drying in the summer sun, lemon balm. Clean, crisp, long, earthy. Up to 5 years.’ (DF) £14.99; Evy, MMD, Sel

Te Mata Estate, Cape Crest, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand 2001**** ‘Fresh cut grass with nectarine aromas. Integrated oak and crisp acidity, toffee, elegant. 2–5 years.’ (WK) £10.99; Fel

Wohlmuth, Summus, Osteireich, Austria 2002*** ‘Perfumed, herbaceous, fresh and piquant, long on the palate; vivid. 2–5 years.’ (HGG) £9.32; Hae

Cabernet Sauvignon

Los Vascos, Grande Reserve, Chile 2001**** Whiffs of cassis/blueberries/vanilla on the nose. Fresh palate, acidity, ripe fresh tannin and medium-bodied fruit. 2–5 years.’ (PTC) £9.99; HHC, L&S, L&W, Sel

Shafer Hillside Select, Napa Valley, Stags Leap District, USA 1999**** ‘Roast plum, cinnamon, vanilla, cherry liquor. Powerful medium-full body, brisk tannins, blackberry. Very long, big. 10 years +.’ (DF) N/A UK + 1 707 944 2877

Domaine du Castel, Jerusalem, Judean Hills, Israel 2000**** ‘Lovely edge of fruit, smoky berry – elegant. Soft, fine fruit on palate. Fresh and balanced. 5–10 years.’ (JL) £27.50; MdV, Nic (selected stores)

Pepper Bridge, Walla Walla Valley, Washington State, USA 2000**** ‘Cassis, blackberry and light herbal aromas. Dense fruit, elegant and refined tannins. Beautifully integrated. 2–10 years.’ (NR) N/A UK; +1 509 525 6502

Carmel, Private Collection, Israel 2000*** Classical balance and structure, supple, smooth; elegant, memorable; a fruit compote. 5–10 years.’ (HGG) N/A UK

Château d’Armailhac, Grand Cru Classé, Pauillac, France 1996*** ‘A bit closed still. Blackberry, complex. Strong, well-balanced tannin. Long length. 5 years.’ (KS) £13 (in bond) BBR/£32.95; VWC (2001)

D’Arenberg, The Coppermine Road, McLaren Vale, Australia 2001*** ‘Eucalyptus nose, typically Australian. Complete palate, round attack but dry tannins at the end. Up to 5 years.’ (EM) £17.99; Bib, Gad, Odd, Wai

Mas de Daumas Gassac, Cuvée Emile Peynaud, Vin de Pays de l’Herault, France 2001**** ‘Lots of rich fruit on the nose but elegant, new oak, mineral. Rich fruit, firm tannin, robust and well structured. 2–10 years.’ (CG) Price on application; BBR, Bib, CPy, Nsn, WSo

Torres, Gran Coronas, Gran Reserva, Spain 1989 *** ‘Medium intensity. Eucalyptus, minty, smoky. Elegant, and balanced by red fruits and soft acidity and tannins. 5–10 years.’ (WK) £8.99; Fel, Gad, LyS, Pip

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