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 Editorial  Share this article     Summary of Wine Tasting column Events 
  Wine Tasting Issue 136, January 2015   
Contrasts of Chardonnay and Sauvignon BlancContrasts of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc Wines of the MonthWines of the Month  Contents 
Issue 135, December 2014 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 137, February 2015

Contrasts of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc

The two famous French white berried grapes, although they share the same country of origin, make different and opposite wines

 Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc undeniably bring to mind France and, in particular, Burgundy and Loire Valley. If it is true the origin of the second grape actually is Bordeaux, it is in the Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc has been capable of expressing wines of great elegance, last but not the least, of particular character. It is undeniable both grapes share the same fate of globetrotter, just like other French grapes, even reaching countries tens of thousand kilometers away. Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are the emblem of a specific wine making model: grapes frequently blamed of being excessively found in too many wines, it is undeniable that - when used - their presence does not pass unnoticed. Although they have different organoleptic qualities and profiles, they are however capable of characterizing the wines in which they are used in, by adding their unmistakable characters.


 

 The fame of these grapes is such that, today, they are virtually found in every wine making country of the world. The cause of such a remarkable success is also because of the assumption made a long time ago, when it was believed the quality of French wines was mainly determined by their grapes. An evidently disputable supposition - no matter it is important, a grape, alone, cannot make a quality wine - and only later it will be understood the secret was something else. When they finally realized great wines require strict quality viticultural and wine making practices, the famous international grapes conquered the world already. We are not underrating, of course, the quality of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, as facts - through the expression of the wines made in their home country - can easily witness the excellence which is also the result of the territory and efforts of man.

 Being of Burgundian origin, a land in which it is capable of making wines of magnificent elegance, Chardonnay is generally known in the world because of its characteristic roundness. This quality is frequently used in winery in order to smooth crisp and acidic wines, therefore to improve balance and, at the same time, to meet the taste of certain consumers. The characteristic roundness is widely responsible of the striking success Chardonnay obtained all over the world, however, considering the famous Burgundian grape for this quality only, would be a mistake of superficiality. If it is true Chardonnay is frequently used for smoothing certain wines - therefore making them more “immediate” and easy to sell - we should notice the versatility of this grape is really remarkable. We can think, for example, Chardonnay is the only white berried grape to be used for the production of Champagne and, moreover, it is virtually found in every classic method sparkling wine all over the world.

 Another appreciated quality of Chardonnay is to be particularly suited for the fermentation and aging in wood, a technique making a wine more complex while accentuating its roundness. Chardonnay is however capable of making wines of good quality even in case it is vinified in inert containers, and, in this case, it is capable of expressing its aromatic finesse and crispness. Its wine making versatility is widely appreciated in the production of wines, as - by using proper enological techniques - it is capable of making wines of distinct and unique characters. Another characteristic for which Chardonnay is widely appreciated is represented by its aromatic profile, recalling tropical fruits and flowers, banana and acacia, in particular. Finally, despite it is rarely used in this sense, Chardonnay proved to be successful in making interesting sweet wines.


The color of Chardonnay: straw yellow
with greenish yellow nuances
The color of Chardonnay: straw yellow with greenish yellow nuances

 Having a completely different character, Sauvignon Blanc is appreciated for its vibrant crispness and exuberant olfactory profile. It should be said, Sauvignon Blanc is not an aromatic grape, however its particular olfactory profile have led many to define this grape as semi-aromatic. A more demanding grape than Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc is strongly affected by territory and, in particular, climate, always making distinct wines in each of these conditions. Sauvignon Blanc is frequently used to add aromas and crispness to those wines poor in these characteristics, a contribution which can be easily and always perceived in these wines. The character of this grape is such that, even in minimal quantity, it is capable of substantially affecting the wines in which it is found. Sauvignon Blanc expresses, in any case, the best of its character and personality when vinified alone and, it should be said, it is a grape not appreciated by everyone because of the particular and opposed expressions it can create.

 In areas having a mainly cool climate - such as Loire Valley, its preferred land - Sauvignon Blanc makes very crisp wines and characterized by an aromatic profile with evident vegetal nuances, box flower and bell pepper, in particular. In areas having a warmer climate, such as Italy, Sauvignon Blanc expresses an aromatic character made of exuberant tropical fruits, with no hint of its typical vegetal profile. Aging, as it can be easily understood, greatly affects the development of aromas and crispness, with a pretty wide variability. It should be said that, in most of the cases, it is preferred to keep and accentuate its typical crispness: for this reason it is very rare Sauvignon Blanc is fermented or aged in cask or barrique. Its acidity makes it very suited for the production of sweet wines, of which the most famous examples are Sauternes and Barsac, where it is sometimes used.

 Let's try to understand the peculiarities of both grapes by comparing them, and using the contrast technique, in order to make differences evident, therefore, their respective characteristics. The ideal study condition is made of three wines: one Chardonnay and two Sauvignon Blancs, of which, one capable of enhancing the “green” character of the grape, the second characterized by a fruity profile, typical of warm areas. In order to better benefit from this study, it is best the three wines to belong to the same vintage - however, young - and made in inert containers. This will allow the expression of wines without excessive influence of particular wine making techniques, such as cask. The production of Chardonnay frequently provides for the fermentation or aging in wood, therefore we need to pay attention on this and make sure the wine is really vinified in inert containers.

 The evaluation of appearance of the three wines let us see the respective differences in colors, something which can be observed even with a quick evaluation. In Sauvignon Blanc will be noticed a color recalling greenish yellow, in particular in wines produced in cool climate areas. In the wine from the warmer area, will however be noticed evident hues of greenish yellow, despite the color may start to show nuances of straw yellow. This color is very evident in Chardonnay, in which straw yellow is frequently seen in nuances as well, something which can be observed by tilting the glass and evaluating the upper edge of the wine. This color can also be observed in Sauvignon Blanc made in warmer areas - in particular, in case the wine has been macerated in skins - however showing a paler color, in general terms, than Chardonnay.


The color of Sauvignon Blanc:
greenish yellow with nuances of the same color
The color of Sauvignon Blanc: greenish yellow with nuances of the same color

 The study gets more interesting in the olfactory evaluation of the three wines. It will in fact be enough a quick analysis of the three glasses in order to understand the huge differences of each wine, even having opposed aromatic profiles in many regards. Sauvignon Blanc, even in case it is made from grapes cultivated in warm areas, despite its exuberant aromas of fruit and flowers, it hardly denies its vegetal character. In these cases it is strongly attenuated, however certain green characteristics, like to say, are always part of the olfactory profile of its wines, although in delicate and light nuances. The vegetal sensation is virtually unknown to wines made from Chardonnay, whereas it can be sometimes perceived in certain classic method sparkling wines made from this grape. Moreover, the vegetal sensation in Chardonnay can be perceived in wines produced in grapes cultivated in particularly cool climate areas.

 The nose of Sauvignon Blanc produced with grapes cultivated in cool climate areas, expresses to the glass a profile strongly characterized by herbaceous and vegetal sensations. It will be perceived, in fact, aromas of green bell pepper, nettle, tomato leaf and cut grass. In certain cases, it will also be perceived the characteristic smell of box flower, particularly appreciated by the ones loving “old style” Sauvignon Blanc. In the wine produced with mature grapes or cultivated in warm areas, it will be aromas of fruits, including tropical fruit, to be mainly perceived from the glass. Gooseberry, peach, pineapple, banana, citrus fruits and apricot are among the main aromas. Tropical fruit characterizes Chardonnay as well, in particular banana, to which is added apple, pear, plum, grapefruit, pineapple and peach. The world of flowers gives Sauvignon Blanc aromas of elder, broom, hawthorn and acacia, this latter one particularly intense in Chardonnay, to which are added hawthorn, honeysuckle, linden, broom and lily.

 Let's now pass to the evaluation of the gustatory profile of the three wines, something which will make differences in the two grapes even more evident. The attack of Sauvignon Blanc is very crisp and, in case of the wine produced in cool climate areas, acidity becomes dominant, almost sharp. Roundness is pretty low, while leaving to alcohol the main role in balancing crispness. In Sauvignon Blanc produced in warm areas it can be perceived a higher roundness, without attenuating the typical crispness of the wines produced with this variety. Roundness becomes evident in the attack of Chardonnay, a quality frequently appreciated by the ones loving this grape. Crispness is evident in this wine as well, however it is roundness the main quality perceived in the famous grape from Burgundy.

 Differences are continued to be perceived in the final part of the evaluation. The finish of Sauvignon Blanc, after having swallowed the wine, leaves to the mouth a well perceptible crispness, always supported by flavors of tropical and citrus fruits. Crispness becomes less perceptible - however evident - in Sauvignon Blanc produced with mature grapes or cultivated in warm areas. In this case, to the typical crispness, is also added a slight sensation of roundness, however leaving to crispness the main role. The condition is quite the opposite in the finish of Chardonnay, which mainly leaves to the mouth a sensation of roundness and smoothness, while acidity plays a secondary role, although pleasing and fundamental for the balance of wine. Finally, a consideration on alcohol: wines produced with Sauvignon Blanc have - in general terms - an alcohol by volume lower than Chardonnay, a characteristic that, in case of the Burgundian grape, contributes to the perception of roundness.

 






 Editorial  Share this article     Summary of Wine Tasting column Events 
  Wine Tasting Issue 136, January 2015   
Contrasts of Chardonnay and Sauvignon BlancContrasts of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc Wines of the MonthWines of the Month  Contents 
Issue 135, December 2014 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 137, February 2015

Wines of the Month


 

Score legend

Fair    Pretty Good    Good
Very Good    Excellent
Wine that excels in its category Wine that excels in its category
Good value wine Good value wine
Prices are to be considered as indicative. Prices may vary according to the country
or the shop where wines are bought




Orvieto Classico Superiore Luigi e Giovanna 2011, Barberani (Umbria, Italy)
Orvieto Classico Superiore Luigi e Giovanna 2011
Barberani (Umbria, Italy)
Grechetto (90%), Procanico (10%)
Price: € 35.00 Score:

Brilliant straw yellow and nuances of straw yellow, very transparent.
Intense, clean, pleasing, refined and elegant, starts with hints of apple, honey and plum followed by aromas of hawthorn, pear jam, broom, citrus fruits, mature peach, hazelnut and mineral.
Crisp attack and however balanced by alcohol, good body, intense flavors, pleasing roundness.
Persistent finish with flavors of apple, plum and honey.
6 months in cask.
Stuffed pasta, Roasted white meat, Roasted fish, Mushroom soups



Moscato Passito Villa Monticelli 2009, Barberani (Umbria, Italy)
Moscato Passito Villa Monticelli 2009
Barberani (Umbria, Italy)
Muscat Blanc
Price: € 38.00 - 500ml Score: Wine that excels in its category

Brilliant amber yellow and nuances of amber yellow, moderate transparency.
Intense, clean, pleasing, refined and elegant, starts with hints of raisin, dried fig and citrus fruit peel followed by aromas of dried apricot, peach jam, honey, cedar, candied fruit, lavender, thyme, sage and nail polish.
Sweet attack and however balanced, good body, intense flavors, pleasing crispness.
Persistent finish with flavors of raisin, dried fig and dried apricot.
Aged in steel tanks.
Confectionery, Jam tarts, Hard cheese



Trento Rosè Brut Pian Castello 2008, Endrizzi (Trentino, Italy)
Trento Rosè Brut Pian Castello 2008
Endrizzi (Trentino, Italy)
Pinot Noir
Price: € 17.90 Score: Wine that excels in its category

Brilliant salmon pink and nuances of salmon pink, transparent, fine and persistent perlage.
Intense, clean, pleasing, refined and elegant, starts with hints of cherry, raspberry and blueberry followed by aromas of strawberry, bread crust, cyclamen, apple, yeast, plum, citrus fruits and vanilla.
Effervescent and crisp attack, however balanced by alcohol, good body, intense flavors, agreeable.
Persistent finish with flavors of cherry, raspberry and strawberry.
Refermented in bottle on its lees for 60 months.
Stuffed pasta, Roasted white meat, Roasted fish, Mushroom soups



Gran Masetto 2010, Endrizzi (Trentino, Italy)
Gran Masetto 2010
Endrizzi (Trentino, Italy)
Teroldego
Price: € 37.00 Score:

Deep ruby red and nuances of ruby red, impenetrable to light.
Intense, clean, pleasing, refined and elegant, starts with hints of black cherry, blackberry and plum followed by aromas of violet, blueberry, dried rose, vanilla, chocolate, mace, cinnamon, tobacco and menthol.
Tannic attack and however balanced by alcohol, full body, intense flavors, pleasing roundness.
Very persistent finish with long flavors of black cherry, blackberry and plum.
Produced with partially dried grapes. 20 months in barrique, 6 months in bottle.
Game, Roasted meat, Stewed and braised meat, Hard cheese



Franciacorta Extra Brut 2010, Ricci Curbastro (Lombardy, Italy)
Franciacorta Extra Brut 2010
Ricci Curbastro (Lombardy, Italy)
Chardonnay (50%), Pinot Noir (50%)
Price: € 22.00 Score: Wine that excels in its category

Pale straw yellow and nuances of straw yellow, very transparent, fine and persistent perlage.
Intense, clean, pleasing, refined and elegant, starts with hints of apple, banana and plum followed by aromas of bread crust, hawthorn, yeast, praline, grapefruit, tangerine, acacia and butter.
Effervescent and crisp attack, however balanced by alcohol, good body, intense flavors, agreeable.
Persistent finish with flavors of apple, grapefruit and plum.
Referments in bottle on its lees for 42 months.
Roasted fish, Roasted white meat, Stuffed pasta, Fried fish, Broiled crustaceans



Franciacorta Satèn Brut 2010, Ricci Curbastro (Lombardy, Italy)
Franciacorta Satèn Brut 2010
Ricci Curbastro (Lombardy, Italy)
Chardonnay
Price: € 22.00 Score: Wine that excels in its category

Pale straw yellow and nuances of straw yellow, very transparent, fine and persistent perlage.
Intense, clean, pleasing, refined and elegant, starts with hints of banana, apple and bread crust followed by aromas of hawthorn, citrus fruits, plum, honey, grapefruit, praline, butter, yeast and vanilla.
Effervescent and crisp attack, however balanced by alcohol, good body, intense flavors, agreeable.
Persistent finish with flavors of apple, banana and hazelnut.
Refermentation in bottle and aged on its lees for about 40 months.
Pasta and risotto with fish and crustaceans, Sauteed white meat, Sauteed crustaceans, Roasted fish



Brunello di Montalcino 2009, Tenute Silvio Nardi (Tuscany, Italy)
Brunello di Montalcino 2009
Tenute Silvio Nardi (Tuscany, Italy)
Sangiovese
Price: € 28.00 Score: Wine that excels in its category

Brilliant ruby red and nuances of garnet red, moderate transparency.
Intense, clean, pleasing, refined and elegant, starts with hints of black cherry, plum and violet followed by aromas of blueberry, raspberry, dried rose, vanilla, cinnamon, tobacco, chocolate, mace and menthol.
Tannic attack and however balanced by alcohol, good body, intense flavors, agreeable.
Persistent finish with flavors of black cherry, plum and raspberry.
12 months in barrique, 12 months in cask, at least 6 months in bottle.
Game, Roasted meat, Stewed and braised meat, Hard cheese



Brunello di Montalcino Vigneto Poggio Doria 2007, Tenute Silvio Nardi (Tuscany, Italy)
Brunello di Montalcino Vigneto Poggio Doria 2007
Tenute Silvio Nardi (Tuscany, Italy)
Sangiovese
Price: € 80.00 Score:

Brilliant ruby red and nuances of brick red, moderate transparency.
Intense, clean, pleasing, refined and elegant, starts with hints of black cherry, raspberry and plum followed by aromas of violet, blueberry, pink pepper, dried rose, chocolate, tobacco, cinnamon, vanilla, mace and menthol.
Tannic attack and however balanced by alcohol, full body, intense flavors, pleasing crispness.
Very persistent finish with long flavors of black cherry, raspberry and plum.
18 months in barrique, 12 months in cask, at least 36 months in bottle.
Game, Roasted meat, Stewed and braised meat, Hard cheese






 Editorial  Share this article     Summary of Wine Tasting column Events 
  Wine Tasting Issue 136, January 2015   
Contrasts of Chardonnay and Sauvignon BlancContrasts of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc Wines of the MonthWines of the Month  Contents 
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