A recent Loire vs Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc masterclass, hosted by Rebecca Gibb MW and Jamie Goode, set out to discover the differences between the two key Sauvignon-producing regions at opposite ends of the world.
Jointly organised by Sopexa, Central Loire Valley Wines, Loire Valley Wines (yes, two different trade bodies represent the Loire!) and New Zealand Wines, the blind tasting of 12 Sauvignon Blancs pitted one Loire and one Marlborough wine against each other in each of the six pairs.
It was a fairly tough tasting, with styles ranging from green and crisp to creamy and oaky, but the wines in five of the pairs were distinct enough to enable correct identification – which will surely be a relief to the terroirists out there.
How to tell the difference
Loire Sauvignon Blanc occupies the green fruit spectrum (think apple, gooseberry and cut grass), and can be floral, steely, zingy, flinty or even slightly peachy, depending on which appellation it comes from.
Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc tends to be more pungent and intensely flavoured, still with green fruit at its core but filled out with riper, tropical fruit flavours.
About Loire Sauvignon
There are around 123,000ha of Sauvignon Blanc planted throughout the world, of which around 10,000ha are in the Loire and 20,600ha in Marlborough.
The Central Loire, where 50% of all Loire Sauvignon Blanc is produced, is mostly composed of chalky marl capped by Portlandian limestone, although Touraine sits on part of the so-called Paris Basin, which is a limestone over clay-flint composition.
Touraine’s reputation for producing lower-priced wines has meant that land has remained attractively cheap, and it is now benefitting from a new wave of young winemakers keen to make names for themselves. Keep an eye on this appellation if you like Sauvignon.
About Marlborough Sauvignon
Marlborough’s free-draining soils are mostly sandy loam over deep gravel. The region experiences more maritime influence than the Sauvignon-producing areas of the Loire, benefitting from cooling sea breezes.
However, the ozone layer is thin over New Zealand, contributing to 40% more UV radiation than is typical at that latitude. This intensity of light, combined with the free-draining soils, requires irrigation in many cases.
Sauvignon Blanc differences – wine by wine:
The wines were blind-tasted in pairs, in the order they appear below.