March 6, 2011

When Wine Overshoots the Runway

06 March 2011 | by Andrea Frost

Overshooting the runway is a fundamental part of life. It’s as necessary a step in our path to adulthood as learning to walk, learning to speak and speaking our mind.

If life were a little kinder and less intent on making us learn things the hard way, I believe we’d all be assigned an overkill fairy who would spot excess coming and replot our course to avoid the inevitable humiliation.

Of course that’s not how it works.

I shudder at the number of runways I’ve overshot in my efforts to learn my limits. Like famous overshooters Spears, Downey Junior, Sheen and Winehouse, I’m not convinced I can approach anything knowing my limits.

Take my enthusiasm for grunge music. It kicked in well over a decade ago, when Kurt was still with us, Britney was a Mouseketeer and only bogans wore flannel. How ironic we all thought. I listened to grunge bands and saw plenty more, forcing myself on music that tested even my tolerance. Somewhere during a Sonic Youth B Sides I finally threw in the flannel.

Years later there was the glamorous fashion phase that meant paying small and regular fortunes for “classic signature pieces” that “you’ll be able to wear forever”. There we all were, twirling in the mirror, imagining ourselves in environments far more glamorous than we had access to thinking, “well, it’s this or a mortgage payment, but I guess they’re both investments”.

Sauvignon blanc has, in recent years, suffered a similar lack of mentoring from those who should know better.

Oh sure, monumental success, fame and riches but a reputation for being a little too much, not complex enough, bad with food and present at all the wrong dishes with not even a scrap of self awareness. At first, she was like any promising Hollywood starlet – everyone wanted a piece of her, most people got a slice and even then it wasn’t enough. Now they call her cheap, too much, overdone, crass, “I never liked her anyway” they say.

But recently, it appears sauvignon blancs overkill fairy has finally stepped in, provided some guidance and shepherded her to a nicer place …

Fume blanc is an unofficial name given to a particular style of sauvignon blanc. It is a name that was made up by the Grand Master of Californian wine, Robert Mondavi, and is a sort-of version of the French sauvignon blanc style and region Pouilly Fumé.

These wines are made in a quieter style to the bright, shiny, austere style of sauvignon blanc of the new world and even use a portion of old oak to give the wine some texture. They are softer, more subtle, less overt, a lean, refreshing spritely wine that knows when to stop.

Serve with apertifs, seafood, sunny days, casual catch ups and a good coastal view.

A sign of sauvignon blancs to come, and this should make you and your overkill fairy happy.

Gembrook Hill, Fume Blanc,

Oakridge Fume Blanc, $32 at Cellar Door,