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Monday Manifestos
Sauvignon Blanc 2012 – A Powerful Harbinger of Things To Come

By Stephen Eliot

I have always enjoyed tasting wines from barrel and find real fascination in watching their development from fizzy, fermenting, foul-smelling grape juice to what can be a positively profound potable that is so much more than a beverage. I have tasted enough wines from the barrel at so many stages over so many years, however, to know that making a call as to final character and quality is tricky business at best. Prudent evaluation awaits bottling, corking and, ideally, a bit a of wait until things settle down.

I fully admit that most wines from barrel always seem to taste good, and, after all, who doesn’t feel special standing next to an enthusiastic winemaker with thief in hand, but I have seen a good many wines lose their ways after a spectacular start and disappoint by the time they left the cellar, too many silk purse’s turned into sow’s ears.

That, of course, is why we here at CGCW do not review wines until they are finished and on the shelf. To the best of our abilities, we write about what is rather than what we think might be. We do, to some extent, engage in prediction insofar as making recommendations as to which wines want aging and for roughly how long, but, despite tasting from barrel and listening to winemakers ramble on about the virtues and pitfalls of the most recent harvest, making absolute pronouncements about this or that vintage well in advance of release is and has always been uncomfortable territory for us.

That said, I would be less than truthful if I did not confess some excitement and anxious anticipation about the 2012 vintage hereabouts. The circumstances of season and weather seemed just about perfect. Winemakers by nature are a generally positive bunch who find beauty in most every year’s harvest, but I do not recall such universally upbeat opinion about a vintage from virtually every winemaker with whom I spoke starting even before the first grapes came in.

Now, the point of this morning’s long-winded introduction is that we are starting to taste our ways through some of the first serious wines of 2012. Oh, there have been plenty of light and lesser wines already released, some white and some red, but in terms of wines of ambition and stature, the current crop of new Sauvignon Blancs affords the first large-scale look at what the year might, in fact, be all about.

We are just now putting our final touches on our October issue where these wines will be featured, and tasting back through our favorites and reading through our notes for close to a hundred new Sauvignons, I must say the success of 2012 is striking. The top names have performed brilliantly; they usually do but for climatic disaster, but the real face of any vintage is seen in what might called the “middle tier”, and, with respect to Sauvignon Blanc in 2012, high achievement has so far been found at every level.

We will offer up further comments and reflections on some our favorites and top values a few weeks down the line, so please stay tuned, but know that there are plenty of outstanding 2012 Sauvignon Blancs beginning to fill retailers’ shelves, and I cannot but wonder if great Chardonnay (then Pinot, then Cabernet, Zinfandel and Syrah?) is not too far behind.


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