Roberson; £10 – sample provided for review
There are a couple of things that worried me about this wine even before I’d opened it.
First was the word ‘Sauvignon’ plastered across the front label. A French wine that shouts about its grape variety, in my experience, is either designed primarily for the export market (and usually lacking any sign of France’s real selling point – its terroir) or isn’t from any AOC region and therefore probably rustic table wine.
Second was the description of this wine on Roberson’s product page (which can be seen here) as “fantastic value for anybody looking for the taste and quality of Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé without the price tag”. This makes it sound suspiciously like a Loire equivalent of Petit Chablis to me, and as I’ve said previously, Petit Chablis is an experience that uniformly just makes me wish I’d spent the extra fiver on a better bottle.
Having said that, our taste buds have become inured to the acid-and-gooseberry assault of £10 Kiwi Sauvignon Blancs like The Ned, which I described in my review 18 months ago as “about as subtle as a clown that arrives in a car with falling-off doors, wielding a sledgehammer with a luminous handle and twinkly flashing lights”.
So, maybe there’s something in a move towards the more subtle approach of the original £10 Sauvignon Blanc specialists in the Loire Valley?
As it turns out, there is. I like this a lot, despite my initial prejudices and reservations about it. The nose is quite delicate and appley, with a touch of citrus and gooseberry. The mouthfeel is surprisingly luscious – it’s not thin and zingy like a New World equivalent. On the palate there’s a bit of a honey and lemon zest flavour alongside more the more anticipated gooseberry and green-pepper notes, and a really lovely aromatic air about the whole experience: think cut grass and the aroma of cooked thyme. The finish is respectable as well; in fact the only thing that is missing is actually a touch of acid on the tongue. It’s subtle and interesting, and very moreish.
Actually, the other thing that is missing is the defining mineral, ‘gun-flint’ feel that a Sancerre or Pouilly Fumé would have. It comes up short on that front, which isn’t surprising – the top Loire wines start at three times this price. People will pay a premium for that taste. This isn’t a direct alternative to the big boys of the Loire, and I would argue it’s a mistake positioning it as such.
However, this is definitely a direct alternative to other £10 Sauvignon Blancs in this bracket, and better than the vast majority of them. Bold flavours are always going to be easier to sell than subtlety, but La Petite Perrière, from just outside Sancerre, offers a genuinely well-priced alternative to the standard Kiwi fayre on offer in the shops at the moment. Highly recommended.
Score – 16/20