Tannat is one such cultivar: unless you grew up with Madiran and the red wines from Basque country, or in Uruguay, where it is considered the national grape, it’s unlikely that you will find yourself with a compelling craving for its chunky tannins and its opaque vermillion hue. Australian sparkling shiraz is another example: you can be absolutely familiar with the variety and (quite separately) love great fizz but your mind simply cannot combine these two vinous treasures under a single aesthetic.
LOIRE VS. CAPE SAUVIGNON
Loire Sauvignon blanc is a slightly different issue: wine drinkers brought up on a diet of Cape Sauvignon are often never quite sure what to make of the greatest French examples: they are not green and grassy, like some of the more pyrazine-driven wines from Constantia, nor are they pumped with the passion-fruit and tropical notes of Elgin and Durbanville. In fact, unless they were crafted in the mock-Kiwi style recently adopted by some of Loire’s well-known producers as a counter to the international success of the best New Zealand examples, they seem a little too elusive, a little too refined, a little too nuanced to be easily comprehended. Only if you give up trying to position them somewhere on the South African spectrum will you allow yourself a chance to appreciate them in their own right.
Consider De Ladoucette’s Pouilly Fumé, the Comte Lafond Sancerre, or, if a really special occasion looms, the Baron de L. Their aromas are generally more floral – whiffs of honeysuckle and lemon blossom – and their palate is more linear, more precise, with curious blackcurrant-like notes (the French call this “cassis leaf”) and a more flinty, dry finish. It is, however, worth the effort to invest in this slightly reticent acquaintance – one you know deep down has much to give once you penetrate the reserve. Even Chardonnay aficionados – who have long forsworn any interest in Sauvignon as a variety – come to embrace their charms.