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The Sauvignon Gris Grape


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About Sauvignon Gris

(Synonyms: Fié, Fié Gris.)

Background

Map showing the Bordeaux region of France

The grape known as both Sauvignon Gris and Fié is a white-wine grape originating in Bordeaux, where it was a mutation of Sauvignon Blanc; it is now also widely grown in Chile, and is quickly becoming well-stablished in Uruguay and especially in New Zealand.

(The commonest name is Sauvignon Gris, but the French grower widely credited with rescuing the grape from oblivion, Jacky Preys, calls it Fié Gris—the old name for it—and Fié is thus also a common denomination for the grape and wine.)

While it has languished in the shade of its much better-known parent, it is now coming to be appreciated for what it is, rather than disparaged for what it is not (which is to say, it is not an "alternative Sauvignon Blanc"). Its nose, in particular, is less ferocious than Sauvignon Blanc's, but it has a concentrated fruit and citrus quality; moreover, it is less cuttingly crisp, and tends toward a round, rich quality. All in all, it is a fine varietal well worth being known better.

Factoid: French AOC law dictates that wineries are not allowed to bottle Sauvignon Gris as a single varietal; those few who do must label it as a generic white Bordeaux. Weird people, the French.


Some Descriptions of Sauvignon Gris Wines


Some Sauvignon Griss to Try

(About this list.)

The list of reasonably available specimens is woefully short. Even expanding the price range would add little to that short list. There are a few others to be found, but only from a very few retailers (and so they are omitted here); but if you find one, give it a try. (One especially to be on the lookout for is the Jacky Preys "Cuvée de Fié Gris"; Preys single-handed rescued this grape from disappearing.)

The quotations below are excerpts; we strenuously urge you to click on the green diamond symbol by each quoted review to see the full article.
Casa Silva "1912 Vines" Sauvignon Gris
(Colchagua Valley, Chile.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine seems to have two CellarTracker review pages:
     » first page; and
     » second page.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.


Some quotations and facts about this wine:

♣ There seems some confusion about bottlings of this wine from this maker: a "1912 Vines" bottling and what we may call a "standard" (or "Estate") bottling. Casa Silva's own web site only shows one Sauvignon Gris bottling, and that says "1912 Vines" on its label. So assume any Casa Silva Sauvignon Gris on offer to be the "1912 Vines" bottling.

A few days later I was able to try another example of Sauvignon Gris, this time it was made from very old vines in Colchagua Valley by a winery called Casa Silva and I loved it. Sauvignon Gris is . . . fatter and less aromatic than its sibling. In France they are historically blended together to give more texture and richness than Sauvignon Blanc would have on its own. Personally I think Sauvignon Gris is potentially a very interesting grape, indeed so excited was I by the Casa Silva wine that I actually became the first person ever to ship a few cases to the UK.

Very aromatic, but not really complex. Nice and pleasant with a round and slightly mineral finish.

♣ International Wine Cellar (1 March 2009), 90 points.

The Sauvignon Gris vines at the estate have been in place since 1912. This makes it one of the best examples of wine in the world. The grape has a little more sugar content that the Sauvignon Blanc. Therefore it has a little more character and depth. It makes a great partner with rice based dishes.

More of a novelty than anything, this Sauv Gris from Casa Silva offers clean, fresh aromas of apple, green melon and talcum powder. It smacks of crispness and green apples on the palate, and the finish is cleansing and gets the job done. Arguably a little pricey for what amounts to a basic white wine. But it’s pretty nice nonetheless.

Pale gold in the glass, this wine has a wonderfully bright lemon pith and wet stone minerality in its aromas. In the mouth, gorgeous deep minerality marries with lemon and pink grapefruit pith. Outstanding crispness and fantastically bright acidity. . . Gorgeous. 13.6% alcohol. Score: around 9.

1912 old vines. Very pale straw yellow. Aromatic with melon, lemon, and a touch of minerality on both the nose and palate. Dry and light-bodied with good acidity, a bit of creaminess, and a medium to long finish. Quality: 3 stars (out of 5). QPR: 1 bang for your buck (out of 5).



Cousiño-Macul "Isidora" Sauvignon Gris
(Maipo Valley, Chile.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.


Cousiño-Macul Sauvignon Gris
(Maipo Valley, Chile.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.


Some quotations and facts about these wines:

♣ Cousiño-Macul apparently bottles two renditions of Sauvignon Gris: "standard" and "Isidora". They sell for about the same price, and get roughly equal reviewer remarks (and points), and seem about equally available, so there doesn't seem much to choose from as between them. Here, we intermix comments for (presumably) both.

This was a very distinctive and flavorful white. Very light, bright straw gold. Broad nose of earth, ripe honeydew melons, and mowed grass and herbs. Broad, dry, and deeply flavored, with concentrated herby, minerally, peachy flavors, and an almost oily texture. Very long finish. Maybe not for everybody, but I thought this to be a very good value in a character-filled white made from a rare varietal. 89 points.

A relative of Sauvignon Blanc, this wine shows similar character in crisp, grapefruit flavors, but it also has fuller body and some herbal notes of thyme and especially fennel. Great with light foods or serious sipping (ie., you'll want to talk about this wine) on the patio. Good value!

♣ Wine Advocate (date unknown), 87 points

♣ International Wine Cellar (May/June 2011), 89 points

Bright straw. Musky herbs, pear skin and citrus pith on the nose. Dry and incisive, showing lively lemon and pink grapefruit flavors and a deeper orchard fruit quality. Finishes with solid grip and good clarity, repeating the herbal note. I like this wine's uncompromising character.

[T]he Cousiño family in Santiago is still producing gorgeous wines from [old vines]. A relative of sauvignon blanc, this pink-skinned grape produces a wine with a sweet, acidic nose, reminiscent of dried oranges and tangerines, fuller on the palate than its zippy brother—all around, this bottle is perfect for sipping on a cool late-summer evening, and goes great with oysters, mussels, and other richer seafoods.

Color: Pale yellow. Nose: White blossoms and peach. Taste: Dry and light bodied. Citrus fruit and notes of sweet spices. Summary: Light and savory fruit flavor. Makes a good aperitif. Great with cheeses. Rating: 3½ *

Originating in Graves in Bordeaux and arriving in Chile in the 19th century, this white wine grape could easily become Chile’s icon white wine. Medium-bodied with a greenish yellow color, the wine is less aromatic than its sister Sauvignon Blanc but no less appealing nonetheless. You’ll sense aromas of citrus, flowers, pear, white peach, and enjoy those as much as you will the flavors that follow: Citrus zest (grapefruit); a bit of sweet white peach, a good acid backbone, and delicious tropical fruit (banana) at the end. What a long, clean finish!. Even New Zealand is getting into the act. Don’t let it get too cold; 55F/13C is plenty cold enough. Then you get all the flavors.

In the glass, the wine was a medium silvery lemon color. The nose was fairly lackluster with some subtle white pear aromas and a faint whiff of peach of and grapefruit citrus. On the palate the wine was medium bodied with fairly low acidity. There were round white peach flavors along with some white grapefruit, grapefruit peel, and white pear. The character of the wine was broad and fat, which surprised me given the acid levels in most Sauvignon Blanc based wines. The finish was bitter, chalky and pithy and not really all that enjoyable. There were some similarities to Sauvignon Blanc in this wine, but not enough of them. It's certainly possible that this wine may have been a little past peak, but I really expected it to still be showing decently since I don't think I've ever had a Sauvignon Blanc wine shut down after only 3 years in bottle.

Appearance: silver-tinged pale straw. Nose: peach, pineapple, sharp mineral. Palate: rush of ripe pear, peach, and grapefruit with a a vibrant back-palate prickle and a sea-salt fade. Overall, a fascinating and refreshing wine. A well-executed example of a grape typically relegated to workhorse blending duty.

Lightly straw coloured, the nose of this Sauvignon Gris 2007 stands out for its notes of white peach and mandarin, with touches of ginger. Medium bodied, it has a full, unctuous texture and a spicy character with tropical fruits. There is a balanced combination of fruit with a silky texture.



For a Splurge

The closest thing to a "splurge" Sauvignon Gris is only a hair above the ones listed above, but then it's only a hair more expensive; it's the Bordeaux Château de Bellevue Sauvignon Gris.

• That wine at 1000 Corks
• That wine at Wine Searcher
• Its Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.
• Its CellarTracker pages.

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