SAUVIGNON blanc's spell on the Australian drinking public has lasted years and made the particularly pungent New Zealand drop Oyster Bay the top-selling white wine in the country.
But wine industry trend spotters say its stranglehold is loosening as pinot noir and new varieties of chardonnay find favour with drinkers' overexposed palates, according to The Australian Financial Review .
Brown Brothers winemaker Ross Brown believes consumers have tired of "brand sauvignon blanc", pointing to the mass discounting of New Zealand wines as proof the flavour fad has run its course.
Mr Brown, a third-generation winemaker at Brown Brothers, in Milawa, Victoria, is banking on a change of palate among Australian drinkers that will elevate red wine – more specifically, pinot noir – to the drop of choice.
Historically, he says, wine drinking tastes move in 12-year cycles, with chardonnay's popularity lasting from 1990 to 2003 before the "open, juicy sav blanc flavour" emerged as a clear preference.
He believes that taste obsession will "peter out in the next few years" as drinkers take to pinot's softer, elegant flavours – a "clear and attractive point of difference" to the brash cabernets and shirazes many are accustomed to.
Brown Brothers' purchase of Tamar Ridge Estate in Tasmania in August last year was "largely based on our belief in the pinot noir cycle", he said.
"Pinot noir has 5 per cent market share and is growing at 20 per cent a year. We believe that's evidence that something is clearly happening in that category.
"You rarely get a shift in preference without a clear hook or point of difference, and we believe pinot noir offers that."
Winemakers are pinning their hopes on an emerging preference for higher-priced chardonnay, many of which offer finer, more complex flavours than the heavily-oaked drop of the past.
"We are starting to hear from some of the more influential wine consumers and trend spotters that people are moving away from sauvignon blanc and wanting to try more chardonnay," said Winemakers Federation of Australia spokesman Andrew Wilsmore.