Why is it that so often the things that women prefer are mocked and derided? Best selling novels that find themselves selected for book clubs become ‘chick lit’. Films that are created with a budget of hundreds of millions of dollars starring some of the world’s leading female acting talent are dismissed as ‘chick flicks’.
When a product or service attracts a strong female following our cultural lens views it as somehow tarnished or inferior. Some marketers actually fear their product becoming too closely associated with ‘the female consumer’ lest the negative associations it may conjure.
It appears that, somewhere along the line, Sauvignon Blanc has suffered from such a fate. Once regarded highly enough to be included as one of the world’s only noble grape varieties (alongside such vinous dignitaries as Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot) it has gone – in this country at least – to being commonly referred to as ‘bitch diesel’ and ‘cougar juice’. Two of the more horrendous nicknames used to describe the preference women have for Savvy B.
Yes, it’s true that Sauvignon Blanc in Australia is very much a drink consumed predominantly by women. Women buy and consume the vast majority of Savvy B, and in blokey middle Australia, it’s only the confident man who will ask for a glass of Sauvignon Blanc at a barbecue.
Sauvignon Blanc is the highest selling white wine in Australia. And NZ Sauvignon Blanc makes up the vast majority of those sales. 67% of the Sauvignon Blanc we drink in this country is imported, and New Zealand accounts for just under 2/3 of those imports. The dominance of New Zealand Savvy B, and in particular that from Marlborough, is staggering and not reserved to Australia alone. The UK, USA and Canada are also markets where NZ Sav is making it’s mark.
So it’s probably no surprise that it was in Marlborough New Zealand recently, that 400 of the world’s wine industry met to discuss what to do about Sauvignon Blanc at the first ever International Sauvignon Blanc Celebration on 1 – 3 February 2016. While we waxed lyrical about the virtues of the wine, we didn’t really do too much to tackle it’s image problem. Possibly because the underlying problem is one that has plagued women for millennia and is going nowhere fast – blatant sexism.
There’s a strong argument to suggest that Sauvignon Blanc is widely derided precisely because it is a wine predominantly enjoyed by women. It’s brushed with contempt simply because ‘chicks’ like to drink it. And women’s choices are overwhelmingly viewed as inferior.
But why does something preferred by women need to have its reputation lowered? Why doesn’t it have the opposite effect of making the product even more esteemed and revered?
Think about this: There’s plenty of rubbishy, simple, cheap, over-made, over-oaked Shiraz and Cabernet being bought and consumed around the world today by middle aged men and I’ve never heard it referred to as ‘pompous douchebag juice’.
So let’s hear it for Savvy B, and reinstate it where it deserves to be – as the ‘superior’ wine choice.
Some great NZ Sauvignon Blanc’s to try
I made my way through an enormous number of Savvy B’s while in NZ recently. But the ones that really stood out were those who were playing a little bit against the ‘rules’. Which is just the way I like it really…
Churton Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2014
Churton are a boutique operator bringing the best of old world winemaking to the new world vineyards of Marlborough. Their vines, which sit on north-east facing slopes above of the main plantings in the valley beneath, are certified organic and biodynamic. This Sauvignon Blanc is whole bunch pressed and then left to it’s own devices to ferment slowly and naturally, with a smidge (12%) put in French oak barrels to add a lovely warmth and complexity. The result is a wine that is unlike any Marlborough Sav I’ve ever sipped. Clean and dry but with a whole degustation dinner thrown in – entrees of melon and peach, mains of creamy al dente pasta and a crisp lemon and basil sorbet to finish. This is Sauvignon Blanc, Jim, but not as we know it. A must try.
Fairbourne Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2014
Winemaker Sarah Inkersell only makes Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc under her own label, Fairbourne, from her single, hillside vineyard in the Wairu Valley. She’s been winemaking in New Zealand for over 20 years and she gives her grapes some very special attention.
Loads of minerality and flinty flavours make this wine super tasty and interesting and a great match with seafood. It’s generous on the the classic fruit and herbal characters Marlborough Sav is famous for, but it’s more white nectarines than passionfruit, and more lemon blossom than cut grass. A restrained beauty – just like the Hollywood idols of yesterday.
Greywacke Wild Sauvignon 2013
The 2014 is about to be released, but this 2013 is still pretty stunning. Fermented entirely with naturally occurring yeast, this is not your typical Marlborough Savvy, being both intricate and textural. The wild yeast gives it plenty of bready and yeasty characters, but it’s balanced with the luscious tang of lemon and ripe nectarine and a dense nuttiness, almost like smoked almonds.
I also tried the 2010 vintage which, after a few years in the bottle, was like eating an apricot danish while the baker smoked a pipe next to you. Amazing. In fact, it was the aged Sav B’s that really showed themselves to be the true heroes. Let’s hope we get a chance to see more of them on this side of the ditch.
Jules Taylor Sauvignon Blanc 2014
The fabulous lady of NZ wine behind the label is full of character and life, so it’s no surprise this joie de vivre is also mirrored in her wines. They’re pretty easy to find here but don’t think that makes her a big player. She’s a boutique operator who’s success at home and abroad is making the big boys sit up and take notice.
At under $20 a bottle there’s exceptional value here. There’s intense fruit, your senses are given an initial whack of passionfruit and lime, but are then wonderfully restored back to balance with bright, herbal tonic goodness. The whole thing is lifted by fantastic acidity that really gets the appetite going. The 2014 is out now, but the 2015 will be hitting shelves soon near you.