The desire to accept an international challenge is what prompted the Bava family to cultivate and produce Sauvignon Blanc in a hilly area known for its excellent red wines.
Here in Cocconato, Piedmont, the grape variety has found the perfect soil and climate to fully develop its scents.
Giulio Bava tells us about this challenge and the character that Sauvignon Blanc has revealed, giving rise to the wine Relais Bianc.
What do you think of the Sauvignon Blanc variety, and what are the characteristics it assumes in the Piedmont region?
Sauvignon Blanc is an international grape variety and is part of a select group of vines cultivated worldwide, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, or Pinot Noir. However, among this elite group of grapes, Sauvignon Blanc is one of the most demanding. It cannot be grown anywhere because it thrives in cool hilly terrains. Therefore, a significant portion of the Piedmont hilly territory is suitable for Sauvignon Blanc cultivation.
Throughout Piedmont, Sauvignon Blanc tends to have a more refined character than in other regions. As for Bava, we have chosen the hills that we know are most suitable for producing quality wines, characterized by the white soils that give rise to great red wines, from which excellent whites can also be produced, including Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
We have selected the coolest exposures to preserve and enhance the final stage of grape ripening, which is crucial for Sauvignon Blanc. This choice allows us to preserve best the scents and hints that distinguish this grape variety, resulting in a wine with a finer and more refined palate.
In our vineyards, Sauvignon Blanc tends to be a long-lasting wine with more refined scents. Instead of the typical yellow pepper and tomato leaf notes that characterize the grape, one can perceive more delicate thyme and sage scents, making the wine particularly interesting.
When were the first vines planted in Cocconato, and why did you decide to focus on this grape variety?
Sauvignon Blanc yields complex wines with a character that is not universally appreciated. Due to its demanding nature, Sauvignon Blanc can define a territory. If this ambitious and demanding grape variety achieves good results in our vineyards, it is because we have a great territory. So, the desire to accept an international challenge drove us to cultivate Sauvignon Blanc.
The process was not immediate: the project started in 2005, with the first vines planted to evaluate the soils and identify the best positions. In 2011, the first vineyard was planted.
What are the main pairings of Sauvignon Blanc with traditional Piedmontese cuisine?
Regarding food pairings, it would be expected to say that Sauvignon Blanc is the ideal companion for fish as a white wine. However, standardized pairing conventions are increasingly being challenged. For example, just as Barbaresco is now being enjoyed with fish, Sauvignon Blanc pairs well with goat cheeses.
I find it perfect to pair with pasta dishes, particularly risottos with asparagus, nettles, or vegetables, as we do in spring. It also goes well with a frittata with herbs of San Pietro.
To avoid the predictable pairing with typical Piedmontese appetizers based on peppers, such as stuffed peppers, anchovies, or sweet and sour preparations, I believe Sauvignon Blanc is an excellent wine for white meats like guinea fowl, chicken, and even a variation of the classic recipe of rabbit with white wine and olives, both for cooking and pairing.
If we want to take a more international approach, why not pair Sauvignon Blanc with a good club sandwich? It might be a daring combination, but if we think of a sandwich with sweet and sour sauce or mustard and white meat, it could create a surprising combination.
After all, the club sandwich is famous worldwide, and nobody has ever considered dedicating a wine to it… We could be the first!
What are the main differences between Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay?
Many wonder about the differences between Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, perhaps because they are among the most well-known white wines. However, their shared characteristic of being white wines is not enough to make them similar. The differences are evident in the vineyard, in terms of cultivation, preferred soils, and the plants themselves.
The Sauvignon Blanc vine is more densely clustered, with leaves and tendrils intertwining, compared to the more regular Chardonnay. Speaking of the wine, Sauvignon Blanc has a more aromatic character than Chardonnay, with a distinct and recognizable imprint.
Sauvignon Blanc always maintains higher acidity, making it more elegant but also sharper, distinctive, and less enveloping. On the other hand, Chardonnay is naturally a grape that produces more sugar, which, under normal conditions, such as those we have here in our hills, translates into higher alcohol content, resulting in a warmer and more enveloping wine. In fact, with Chardonnay, it is often necessary to harvest earlier to obtain a fresh wine.
Lastly, it should be noted that Chardonnay lends itself well to refermentation and sparkling wine production, while Sauvignon Blanc much more rarely.