ALISTAIR GIBSON: Summer whites from their – surprising – spiritual home

Dourthe No 1 Sauvignon Blanc
Dourthe No 1 Sauvignon Blanc
The Gin Festival, pencilled for Portsmouth in August, has been cancelled. Picture: The Gin Festival

Gin Festival in Portsmouth cancelled after firm goes into administration – and you won’t get your money back

It’s easy to forget in the oceans of New World sauvignon blanc that sit on supermarket shelves that France, and in particular the Loire Valley, is the spiritual home of this most popular of white grapes.

Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé are perhaps the two most famous names for sauvignon blanc but what is often overlooked is that slightly further south in Bordeaux the grape is also widely planted and may very well originate from the region.

Chablis 2014, (M&S)

Chablis 2014, (M&S)

Bordeaux is best known for its red wines but it’s a little-known fact that cabernet sauvignon, that king of red grapes, only came about due to a pairing between Cabernet Franc and sauvignon blanc.

Sauvignon blanc is widely planted in the region and makes both dry wines in areas such as Graves and Entre-Deux-Mers but also contributes to the great dessert wines of Sauternes and Barsac.

In the mid 1980s, Bordeaux’s reputation undoubtedly rested on its red and sweet wines but négociant and producer Dourthe saw an opportunity.

Believing in the dry, white Bordeaux appellation, they made it their mission to produce a dry white wine from the increasingly popular sauvignon blanc grape.

Rustenberg Chardonnay 2017, Stellenbosch

Rustenberg Chardonnay 2017, Stellenbosch

The result has been a great international success and with the release of the Dourthe No 1 Sauvignon Blanc 2017 (The Wine Society £8.50) the producer celebrates the brand’s 30th anniversary.

It’s very fresh and aromatic with notes of gooseberries, grapefruit and blackcurrant leaf, the freshness continues on the palate with zesty acidity and an elegant, flavoursome finish.

It’s great value and if you are looking for a sub-£10 food-friendly French sauvignon blanc this hits all the right notes. Match it with the last of the English season asparagus or a simply cooked sea bass.

Staying in France, Chablis 2014 (M&S £12.50) is made for M&S by the Union des Viticulteurs de Chablis and represents great value for money.

You can almost taste the cool climate here, it’s made with just a touch of oak and offers the classic chablis notes of green apples and minerals on the nose followed by an almost taut, steely palate with citrus and white flowers.

Serve this with simply cooked shellfish, oysters, or even fish and chips.

If you want a chardonnay with a bit more weight, then Rustenberg Chardonnay 2017, Stellenbosch (Waitrose £13.99 and on offer £10.99 from July 10) is a very impressive South African wine from one of the Cape’s most highly regarded estates.

It’s been barrel-fermented and then matured in oak for 12 months but the oak only adds to the whole ensemble as opposed to over-powering it.

The bouquet shows a mixture of pineapple, orange zest, stone fruits and vanilla spice before a beautifully textured palate with ripe fruit and fresh acidity to balance.

Considering this is only the estate’s second tier chardonnay this is a fine accomplishment and I would serve this with a Sunday lunch roast chicken and be very content indeed. ​