There’s more to French sauvignon blanc than Sancerre and its Loire valley stablemates, as Peter Ranscombe finds out.
ZOOM isn’t the only game in town when it comes to online wine tastings.
Swipe onto social media network Instagram any time after 5pm and you’ll be confronted with a veritable vineyard full of virtual vino discourses.
Wine merchants, wine critics and wine “influencers” galore are running their own tastings on its live streaming video feature.
While participants can’t see themselves on screen, they can still type questions and interact with the presenters, giving the tastings more of a television-show feel.
Online presentations such as these are a great way for wine shops and online retailers to talk to their customers about their bottles.
Participants can order the relevant wines in advance and then taste them along with the presenter.
Wine Line Scotland – the new online retail arm of wholesaler Alexander Wines – teamed up with Elliot Awin, one of the partners at importer Awin Barratt Siegel (ABS) Wine Agencies, for its first Instagram Live tasting tonight, which featured three bottles of sauvignon blanc from France.
I was already a big fan of Alexander Wines’ range – which, before the launch of Wine Line Scotland during lockdown, was sold to restaurants, bars, bottle shops and private clients – and it got even better after the wholesaler teamed up with ABS, which helped to increase its roster of Australian and German wines in particular.
Although this was the first time Awin had teamed up with Wine Line Scotland for his tastings, he’s been running gatherings on Instagram for several weeks now and so has honed his informal style.
He was joined on screen by cheese expert Phoebe Weller, manager of Valhalla’s Goat wine shop in Glasgow and one of the nicest people in Scottish wine.
Weller was clearly a bit hit with the punters, judging by the flood of positive comments that scrolled up the screen as she regaled the audience with tales of wine and cheese.
Goats’ cheese and Loire sauvignon blanc is a classic food and wine matching combination and the very epitome of “what grows together goes together”.
Time for wine
Awin opened the tasting with the 2018 Domaine Francois Cartier Touraine Sauvignon Blanc, from an area with soils that he explained are similar to Sancerre, further upstream in the Loire valley in northern France.
Classic Loire sauvignon blanc cut grass, green pepper, lemon and more candied lemon rind aromas on the nose led into more intense lemon rind and green pepper on the palate to match the acidity.
It was a very savoury affair, and ideal for pairing with softer goats’ cheese, with Weller explaining that the cheese tones down some of sauvignon blanc’s more extreme acidity.
The wine that impressed me the most tonight was the 2018 Pierre Martin Sancerre Chavignol with its delicate yet riper nose, full of apricot and lemon rind.
I’d followed Awin’s suggestion of decanting a portion of the wine into my glass about half an hour before the tasting to let some of the more extreme flint aromas blow-off and it was a good tip, with lots of green apple and lemon juice shining through on the palate, plus savoury asparagus on the finish.
If the nose was delicate then the acidity was no-holds-barred, with the teeth-squeaking and molar-tingling freshness for which Sancerre is famous.
Tonight’s final wine – the 2018 Roc de Belame Côtes de Gascony Sauvignon Blanc – transported the show down to south-west France, where the sun’s warmth produces a much riper wine, with more concentrated lemon and apricot on the nose, but still with that Loire-esque flinty note.
The acidity was high like the Sancerre, but the fruit was riper, focusing more around gala melon and peach.
Keep your eyes peeled for more Instagram Live tastings with Wine Line Scotland and Awin – they’re a fun way to end the week, and you’re always in for a treat with bottles from Alexander Wines and ABS.
Read more of Peter Ranscombe’s wine reviews on his drinks blog, The Grape & The Grain.