Meet the winemaker

The experts weigh in on Australian sauvignon blanc and its blends | Halliday Wine Companion

By Halliday Wine Companion for Oakdene, Vasse Felix, Chain of Ponds, Patritti and Flowstone

We learn about the different ways in which local winemakers are approaching sauvignon blanc as a single varietal wine and in blends with semillon, and hear why these styles are worth a closer look.

Vasse Felix winemaker

Virginia Willcock at Vasse Felix

Q: Why are these styles important to your region?

A: Bordeaux white wines are blends of sauvignon blanc and semillon, and the classification of Margaret River as a ‘Bordeaux-like’ region by Dr Gladstones in 1965 meant that logically the two varieties would perform well here. Margaret River semillon displays citrus and floral notes that complement the more intense sauvignon blanc flavours.

Q: How do you make and enjoy these wines?

A: We have been using wild ferments, skin-contact ferments and barrel ferments to create a blend that is more savoury and textural in the traditional Bordeaux blanc style. The drier finish creates a cleansing effect that works perfectly with food, in particular seafood and higher-acid dishes. Our blend also stands up to chilli spice – it’s a great match to yum cha!

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Chain of Ponds Winemaker

Greg Clack at Chain of Ponds

Q: What style of wine does your region produce?

A: The Adelaide Hills has become synonymous with crisp, aromatic and vibrant sauvignon blanc with distinct fruit purity. This style is the perfect accompaniment to fresh seafood, or as a standalone drink in the afternoon sun.

Q: How do you work with sauvignon blanc?

A: We target balanced flavours of citrus, melon and subtle tropical notes with a hint of grassiness. Careful harvest decisions are followed by attention to detail in juice preparation and ferments that allow purity and delicacy to remain in the finished wine.

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Oakdene General Manager

Steven Paul at Oakdene

Q: What style of wine do you aim to achieve?

A: With sauvignon blanc, we’re seeking texture, balance, restrained fruit and a long length of palate, which we achieve through barrel-fermentation and the use of older oak to mature the wine. This style can age and match a broad range of foods. It was in 2008 that we decided to put a small proportion of our sauvignon blanc in French oak to create something different to the more fruit-driven styles in the market, and it’s now one of our most successful wines. 

Q: Why are local versions of this wine worth trying?

A: They’re fresh and bright with abundant fruit, and they’re easy to drink. In general, these wines are also lower in alcohol and pair well with an array of dishes.

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Patritti Winemakers

James Mungall and Ben Heide at Patritti

Q: What’s special about your region for these wines?

A: We believe the Adelaide Hills is producing the best sauvignon blanc fruit in Australia, with a delicious flavour, texture and acid profile that creates complex styles without winemaking fuss.

Q: Tell us about your approach to sauvignon blanc.

A: We aim to retain freshness and vibrancy in the wine. That’s achieved through fruit selection and minimal intervention in the winery, letting the free-run juice and yeast do their thing.

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Winemaker Stuart Pym Flowstone

Stuart Pym at Flowstone

Q: What do you love about these wines?

A: My passion for sauvignon blanc came after a visit to France’s Sancerre and Pouilly Fume regions in 2004. That gave me an appreciation of just what sauvignon blanc can be, which is so much more than the general expectation. Wines like this are complex, textural, have a fantastic length of palate and are great with food (seafood, goat’s cheese, etc.). The Flowstone Sauvignon Blanc is made with a nod to those wines, with a southern Margaret River expression.

Q: Tell us about the Flowstone style.

A: My goal is to make a sauvignon blanc that is serious and sophisticated. It’s sourced from a single vineyard, hand-picked, fermented in 600-litre barrels where it stays for a year, and then kept in bottle for at least another year after that. It’s definitely more of an Old World style.

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This article was produced by Halliday Wine Companion in partnership with Oakdene, Vasse Felix, Chain of Ponds, Patritti and Flowstone.