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Australia's Classic Sauvignon Blanc
By Mary Ewing-Mulligan
Jul 29, 2008
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Shaw and Smith, Adelaide Hills (South Australia) Sauvignon Blanc 2007 ($21, Vintus Imports):  I've been tasting lots of Sauvignon Blancs this summer, and have reviewed a few of them here on WRO already.  Time to give it a rest, move on to other types of wine.  But I feel compelled to share my feelings about this Sauvignon Blanc from Australia, which just might be my favorite Sauvignon Blanc from anywhere in the New World.

The small Shaw and Smith winery -- run by cousins Marin Shaw, the winemaker, and Michael Hill Smith, Australia's first Master of Wine -- has made Sauvignon Blanc from the Adelaide Hills since 1990, when that variety was hardly associated with Australia at all.  Over the years, this wine has become a benchmark for Sauvignon Blanc in Australia.

Essentially, the wine is an unoaked, 100% Sauvignon Blanc.  It weighs in on the fullish side of medium-bodied, has 13% alcohol and yet a high acidity level of 7 grams/liter.  No Semillon, no malolactic fermentation to soften the acidity, no compromises to the straightforward character of the Sauvignon Blanc grape.

In the 2007 vintage, this wine is a bit fruitier than in some other vintages.  The intense aroma suggests melon, green apple, lime, and a bit of tropical fruit, with delicate herbal notes for contrast.  The wine's flavor echoes these characteristics richly and vividly.  What might be a bit of a surprise in the mouth is the wine's creamy texture, which gives the wine real weight.  Crisp acidity cuts through the soft creaminess, however, and enlivens the wine.  The unusual combination of softness and crisp acidity is a characteristic that I've noticed in this wine over several vintages and it seems to be part of the wine's signature style.  The wine is fully dry, by the way  --  something that I do not take for granted in New World Sauvignon Blancs.

Shaw and Smith sources the grapes for this wine from two of its own vineyards and from other vineyards in the Adelaide Hills.  Considering that the Adelaide Hills are adjacent to Barossa Valley to their north (and McLaren Vale to their south) the cool climate might be surprising.  The key is altitude.  On average, the Adelaide Hills region is 7 degrees cooler by day and 15 degrees cooler by night than its neighboring regions.  Altitude variations within the region, from about 1200 to 2100 feet, mean that some parts of the region are cooler yet.

The cool climate, unoaked style of the 2007 Shaw and Smith Sauvignon Blanc suits the wine ideally for food.  Dishes with a bit of natural sweetness such as a potato, onion and olive focaccia, bring out the herbal notes in the wine, while other dishes (for me, tonight, it's a cauliflower purée soup) bring out the wine's fruity notes.  The wine's weight is enough to take on chicken or even grilled sausage.  Serve the wine at any temperature from very chilled to just cool, depending on whether you prefer leanness or richness.

91 Points