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  • Jancis Robinson
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  • Jancis Robinson
30 Jun 2009

From £3.79, $14.99 and €12.52

Find the Fournier

In hot, humid weather, what could be more agreeable than a really sleek, racy, cool, refreshing Sauvignon Blanc with lots of zesty acidity counterbalanced by really interesting, thought-provoking fruit? New Zealand, Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé had a stranglehold on this style for many years but Chile is catching up fast.

I was most impressed when tasting the current range of wines from O Fournier, a family company that has been over-delivering particularly subtle wines from its wineries in Spain, Argentina and Chile. One of the most unusual wines was a new offering from the cool, coastal wine region of Leyda/San Antonio, O Fournier, Centauri Sauvignon Blanc 2008 Leyda (and, for the record, Julia thought the same when she tasted the same wines later the same day).

Leyda is due west of  Santiago and, like so many wine regions on the Pacific coast of the Americas, is dramatically cooled by cool air and vapour off the ocean. The vines responsible for this particularly mineral-scented yet succulent Sauvignon were apparently planted in the late 1990s and are clones 107 and 108. You can read a full vintage report at Leyda 2008 - an early vintage report.

It was particularly interesting tasting this unoaked version next to O Fournier, Alfa Centauri Sauvignon Blanc 2008 Leyda, which costs more and was barrel fermented in 500-litre casks 'to increase mouthfeel' following the practices of the late Didier Dagueneau of Pouilly-Fumé, a hero of the head of O Fournier, José Manual Ortega.

But both Julia and I preferred that particularly fine Sauvignon Blanc fruit in its unadorned state. The oaked version was very well made and not overpowered by the oak but there was a bit of oak spiciness there that seemed at war with all those vegetable and mineral flavours of the Sauvignon, and the wine seemed heavier - which is not what is sought in Sauvignons for hot weather drinking. Both wines are around 13.5% alcohol and I would strongly recommend the unoaked version as a special, cooling aperitif. In a world full of very showy, sometimes unnecessarily, Sauvignons, there is admirable restraint about it, without its being in any way lacklustre.

This superior wine is available quite widely in the US and in Germany while UK importers Seckford have sold the 2007 version (see my tasting not on it in Fournier's worldwide range)  to the following retailers, who are generally asking about £10 a bottle for it:

Alecsic & Mortimer, online based in London
Bijou Bottles, Wroxham, Norfolk
Fairyhill Wines, Swansea
Palmers Wine Shop, Bridport
The Vineyard, Dorking
The Wine Company, (ex The Nobody Inn) Doddiscombleigh, Exeter
Worth Brothers Wine, Litchfield

Another great value Chilean Sauvignon to have come my way recently is Yali, Winemaker's Selection Wetland Sauvignon Blanc 2008 Rapel Valley. I was planning to write about it anyway, so am delighted to see that it is currently on special offer chez both Tesco and Majestic. Majestic are offering it for just £4.49 a bottle provided your 12-assorted-bottles minimum purchase includes two bottles of still Chilean wine. Tesco's online wine operation is offering this wine at the ridiculous price of just £22.74 for six bottles, which works out at £3.79 a bottle. Presumably the brand owners Viña Ventisquero is being screwed into the ground, but this is certainly one of Chile's most dynamic/aggressive companies at the moment so perhaps we need not shed too many tears. Ventisquero is the company whose top wine is made by ex Penfolds Grange winemaker John Duval, as I reported recently in China, Georgia, Chile and France.

And the wine? Packed full of leafy green fruit flavour and juice, it's really well balanced with no specious sweetness. Just 12.5% alcohol but with masses of flavour, and still in fine fettle in the screwcapped bottle I first put in my fridge after tasting a mouthful at the beginning of the month. I think we can assume it was made reductively. If the Fournier wine is for special guests, this one is for every day - and should give a huge amount of pleasure.

The Wetland brand, incidentally, cunningly refers to a special ecopoint-scoring ecosystem near their winery in Maipo, but the grapes for Yali come from all over the place, in this case vineyards in the Lolol Valley, also cooled by the Pacific.

Find the Fournier