Post #4: Sauvignon Republic

23 04 2010

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I’ve wanted to do this post from the first time I heard about this winery. Sauvignon Republic specializes in only Sauvignon Blanc and to my knowledge have only three offerings in their line; one from Marlborough, New Zealand, one from Stellenbosch, South Africa, and one from the Russian River Valley in California. With such a small line, naturally I felt that I had to try them all.

Every time I do a post I like to do some background research into the winery, but unfortunately the website named on the back of the bottle no longer leads to anything so I was forced to do my research through other sources. What I found out was that Sauvignon Republic was founded in 2003 and that they are a small production, sustainable producer. I wanted to know more, but since the winery itself is usually the best source for that kind of information and I have no way of accessing it, that will have to suffice.

I’m usually not swayed by clever marketing ploys but I would like to draw attention to their labels for a moment. (They are each pictured below.) I like the triangular shape, the colorful artwork, and that each one is unique. I have to give them credit where credit is due, I think this is a sharp package design and it really makes them stand out on the shelf. There’s a little bit of a collectable factor involved too, with each one being so different from the others. Good job guys.

But my biggest question is ultimately can they make wine? The best way to find the answer to that of course, a blind tasting. I did not want those clever labels or my preconceived notions about where each one came from get in the way of giving each one a fair shot. I will say though,that they are authentic representations of their regions of origin and that I guessed each one’s identity after smelling and tasting them correctly. That’s probably not actually as hard to do as it may sound; Marlborough and California Sauvignon Blancs have a style that is easy to identify once you’ve had a couple and Stellenbosch was easy to figure out based on the process of elimination. Anyway, that’s not important, but the wines certainly are.

Wine #1: Sauvignon Republic 2008 Russian River Valley Sauvignon Blanc

I expected a lot out of this wine. The Russian River Valley, located within Sonoma County, is known for its chilly weather and it’s dense lingering fog. This is the kind of climate that Sauvignon Blanc tends to thrive in, with the low, and generally consistent temperatures, the grape’s characteristic green acidity can be preserved, keeping the wine lively and fresh. Although there are exceptions to the rule, Sauvignon Blanc is often best in its youth. The best part about these wines is their freshness, which has the potential to fade with age, so a nice young 2008 sounded like it had some serious potential to be great.

However, the wine that I was hoping for never seemed to show up. In the glass this wine was noticable paler than the other two with a seemingly lighter viscosity. Aromatically it was equally light, while the other two seemed to blossom out of the glass, I had considerable difficulty, even after some very vigorous spinning, getting much of anything out of this wine on the nose. There was a good sense of minerality to it, in fact it almost seemed more like a mineral water than a Sauvignon Blanc to me, with an almost mozzarella cheese component (kind of strange actually) with just a very faint tropical fruit tone. Thankfully the palate was a bit more interesting. It opens with a lightly sweet taste of peach, it shows a little bit of tangerine, some soft floral tones, and a bit of limestone. The acidity seemed barely existent and although it did have some nice ripeness and a good mineral edge, it just seemed uneventful. This isn’t a bad wine. There are no real character flaws and it makes an easy going, quaffable table wine but nothing more than that. You can find Sauvignon Blanc like this from all over California of equal quality or higher at this price or lower.

78 Points.  Not worth drinking.

Wine #2: Sauvignon Republic 2007 Stellenbosch Sauvignon Blanc

I was excited about trying this wine because I admittedly have not had very much experience with South African Sauvignon Blanc. I do know however, that Stellenbosch is respected as being one of the best places in South Africa for Sauvignon Blanc. It’s a unique region that is located close to the coast and bordered by mountains, complete with over fifty soil varieties. Cool coastal breezes moderate the warm sunny climate and the grapes slowly ripen to perfection while preserving their acidity. 2007 was a pretty great year in Stellenbosch, with nearly ideal growing conditions so I figured this wine would definitely be worth a try.

Its color was much deeper and richer than the watery lightness of the Russian River Valley one with a somewhat thicker viscosity. Aromatically it was very interesting, complete with passionfruit and fig, unripe grapefruit, an almost smoky minerality, and a pleasant grassiness. Flavors of clamshell and gooseberries appear initially, giving way to a very faint nuttiness, pepper, smoke, and a firm green fig component at the end. The acidity is milder than I was expecting and there is a pretty good balance, although it comes across a little light. This is a pretty good wine overall, it is more interesting and deep than the Russian River Valley one although I still think that there are quite a few Sauvignon Blancs being made in South Africa and New Zealand that could replace this wine at the quality and price range. If you’re looking to try a Sauvignon Blanc from Stellenbosch this would be an okay place to start, but better offerings do exist near or slightly above this price range.

82 Points. Worth Trying.

Wine #3: Sauvignon Republic 2009 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc

In my “A Tale of Two Islands: Tasting New Zealand Pinot Noir” post I mentioned that I am a big fan of wines from Marlborough. That was the main reason that I wanted to do this tasting blind, because I did not want to subconsciously give this wine preference because of its origin. That being said, Marlborough has a reputation as one of the best places in the world to grow Sauvignon Blanc for good reason. It’s warm sunny days and cool nights provide a long growing season that promotes intense flavor development. However, Marlborough is located on the South Island, the cooler of the two islands, so that it also keeps its acidity extremely well.

This wine looked very similar to the Stellenbosch in the glass, with a richness and good thick viscosity. The nose was explosive with tons of complexity showing through. There are lush tropical fruit and floral tones, an absolutely textbook example of fig, ripe passionfruit, gooseberry, endless green fruit, and even a faint hint of rose. The flavor was equally impressive with lots of sharp acid, gooseberries, figs, and a nice chalkiness with some tropical fruit tones around the edges. This wine had great balance between ripe fruit and clean minerality. This is a very well made wine and an excellent example of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. I like this wine more than a number of Sauvignon Blancs I’ve had from Marlborough.

90 Points. Worth Drinking At Twice The Price.

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The Grapevine:  Where is your favorite Sauvignon Blanc region?


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