The white sauvignon

While its true that sauvignon blanc was once referred as ‘having an aroma of cats’ pee,’ don’t let it put you off some of the most refreshing wines there are.

Grapes 521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Grapes 521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
It was not long ago that all dry white wines in Israel seemed to be made from sauvignon blanc grapes. Now we have become more sophisticated and there is a great deal more variety around.
Sauvignon blanc is at its best in the central Loire Valley in France. Wines with names like Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé are very dry, crisp and minerally with a lean, pungent, herbaceous aroma. Another country that produces wonderful sauvignon blancs is New Zealand. It is the sheer intensity of tropical fruit which is noticeable, particularly from the Marlborough region, in the South Island. Other countries making very good sauvignon blancs are Chile and South Africa. Sauvignon blanc is also the grape variety for Bordeaux white wines, normally partnered by Semillon.
One of the more famous and original tasting notes ever is attributed to Jancis Robinson, the English master of wine, who once referred to a sauvignon blanc as having an aroma of “cats’ pee on a gooseberry bush.” I hope this does not put you off, as these are some of the most refreshing wines there are.
The first varietal sauvignon blanc in Israel was produced by Carmel Winery in the 1960s. The first wine from the Golan Heights Winery to gain notice in America was the Yarden sauvignon blanc 1983.
Apart from these two wines it was not until the 2000s that Israel started making sauvignon blancs really well. Today it can even be argued that Israeli sauvignon blancs are better than the chardonnays.
However, if we are being honest, Israel’s best sauvignon blancs can never reach the grassiness or pungency of the French or New Zealand versions. Israeli sauvignons tend to be riper, rounder and less vegetal.
Sauvignon blanc is certainly better than most chardonnays as a wine to accompany food. It is less round and fat, lighter and more aromatic. It is also usually less inexpensive than chardonnay. The crunching acidity makes it perfect to accompany a whole fish cooked under the grill and it goes well with oily fish. Its herbaceous character makes it a good match for baked or grilled vegetables and it will also cope with tomato-based dishes. Israeli sauvignon blancs should be drunk young, or as soon as possible after the harvest, as it is not a wine to improve with age. It should be served cold. Some recommended sauvignon blancs are as follows:
ENTRY LEVEL – up to NIS 30 Entry level wines are for beginners, for those looking for more inexpensive options or for those who simply seek a lighter, fruitier, easier drinking style.
Selected sauvignon blanc 2010 This wine represents very good value. Aromatic, fruity, yet dry, with a clean, refreshing finish. An excellent wine to try to see if you like sauvignon blanc.
BEST BUY – between NIS 30 and NIS 45 These wines represent the best value for money.
Gamla sauvignon blanc 2010 Pale straw-colored wine, with a nose of green apples and citrus. A very good sauvignon blanc grown in the Golan Heights.
Private Collection sauvignon blanc 2009 Very aromatic with grapefruit, green apple and passion-fruit nose. Piercing acidity, with clean citrussy finish. Excellent with grilled fish or as an aperitif.
Dalton Fumé Blanc 2009 This has a well-rounded texture from gentle oak aging, blending with the tropical fruit notes. Showing more complexity and less sharpness than many of its competitors.
BEST QPR – between NIS 45 and NIS 60 These wines represent the best quality-toprice ratio.
Dalton Reserve sauvignon blanc 2009 Grassy, with a refreshing pineapple and grapefruit nose. Classy, full of character from Dalton Winery in Upper Galilee.
Carmel Appellation sauvignon blanc 2009
Bright, aromatic and lively. This sauvignon blanc has a complex aroma in a green, tangy style. Produced by Carmel from Upper Galilee vineyards.
Yarden sauvignon blanc 2009
Medium bodied, well-rounded style. Grassy with gooseberry up front, and hints of tropical fruit in the background. Produced by the Golan Heights Winery.

Barkan Reserve sauvignon blanc 2009
Lively, fruity, showing an appealing passion- fruit aroma. Medium bodied and refreshing. Unoaked.
The special purchase may be for a valued gift or a special occasion.
Yatir sauvignon blanc 2009
Elegant and subtle, with a touch of minerality and a crisp fruitiness. It is aged in oak barrels for three months. It produced from a vineyard in the Negev next to Yatir Winery.
Tabor Adama Gir 2009
Fragrant and fruity with pale straw color and a flinty nose. This is a classic sauvignon blanc, Israeli style. Produced by Tabor Winery.
Château Golan Sauvignon blanc 2008 (not kosher)
Rare, medium bodied wine, part oak aged, showing layers of complexity, and hints of cut grass and herbaceous notes. Produced by Château Golan on the Golan Heights.

Adam Montefiore works for Carmel Winery and regularly writes about wine in both Israeli and international publications.