Sauvignon falls into the tiny category of grape varieties that are so popular that people order them in pubs and bistros without even specifying a preferred geographical point of origin – see also Merlot, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. While such a cavalier approach (which is even more prevalent Stateside than on these shores) may be leaving a lot to chance it does indicate a remarkable degree of consumer confidence. The trouble is that most grape varieties, even the most prolific ones, tend to be soil and climate sensitive and one has to pay a premium for the best viticultural real estate. If you walk into your local boozer and ask for ‘a large glass of Sauvignon’ you are unlikely to be given a glass of top-notch Sancerre or Pouilly Fumé.
Just as the housing market is constantly looking for new hotspots with undervalued properties ripe for gentrification so wine merchants quest for hidden gems. We are indebted to our friend Isabelle Legeron MW for tipping us off about Domaine Gardrat in her native Charente a few years ago while she was researching her Master of Wine thesis. Here on the chalky uplands above Bordeaux a mild maritime climate, great light levels and a free-draining soil provide an ideal habitat for cultivating Sauvignon Blanc. Jean-Pierre and Lionel Gardrat’s wine does not have the weight and intensity of a premium Sauvignon Blanc with a premium price-tag but it does demonstrate an incredible lightness of touch – restraint even – and it is incontrovertibly great value for money. It has subtle elderflower and nettle aromas and a light, racy, almost ethereal palate with gentle mineral nuances and a delicate, dry finish. It works well as a versatile ‘out of the fridge’ aperitif or accompaniment to salads or seafood. If you were served a glass in a pub you would be thrilled!