Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Get to Know your Grapes Series - Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc is a quite popular white wine, but you may not realize how many different wines actually contain Sauvignon Blanc.  This grape is the signature white wine for New Zealand,  and they make some great stuff. You may also have tried Sauvignon Blancs from Napa, Sonoma, or even Central California. The New Zealand and US versions of the wine are typically very fruity, ripe, with a very high level of acidity, and are typically fermented and aged in stainless steel vats.

Sauvignon Blanc is also found elsewhere in the world as one of the key grapes in White Bordeaux wines (Bordeaux wine is not only red!), plus Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé from the Loire Valley in France.  These wines will not have Sauvignon Blanc mentioned on the label because as with many quality wines from Europe, the wines are labeled based on the wine region, not the grape.  In the case of Pouilly Fume, the wine is actually aged in oak barrels - so it will have a different aroma and flavor profile, plus will be able to age unlike those wines made purely in stainless steel.

Sauvignon Blanc has two main characteristics to consider when using it to pair with food. One is the typical herbaceous character which pairs very nicely with fresh herbs like basil, rosemary, mint, cilantro, and parsley.  Sauvignon Blanc also has a high level of acidity, and when dealing with acidity in a dish - you need to fight fire with fire and have a wine that is also high in acid. For acidic foods like salad dressings, or a lemony sauce for vegetables, chicken or fish - Sauvignon Blanc can hang right in there and make a great pairing.  Sauvignon Blanc wines even pair nicely with the notoriously difficult to match Asparagus.

Typical Aromas of Sauvignon Blanc.  Green fruits like apple, pear, and lime. Also green pepper, green grass, other herbs, minerals, flint, and yes folks - even cat pee!  Please don't shy away from trying Sauvignon Blanc because of any cat pee phobia - not all Sauvignon Blanc has this aroma - it is mostly found in examples of White Bordeaux from France, and even then not in every one.

Typical Styles of Sauvignon Blanc Wine. Fresh, fruity wines with bracing acidity are typical for Sauvignon Blanc.  Most of these wines are fermented in stainless steel to preserve the fruit character of the wine. In the Loire Valley of France, Pouilly Fume wines are aged in oak barrels, and elsewhere in the world wines labeled as Fumé Blanc will also have spent some time aging in oak.  Sauvignon also plays a part in providing freshness and acidity when blended with Sémillon in the world famous dessert wine of France's Bordeaux region - Sauternes. 

Who Makes Sauvignon Blanc Wines? Sauvignon Blanc is made throughout the world - here are just a few key examples: 
  • France. Sauvignon Blanc appears in White Bordeaux, Sancerre, Pouilly Fumé, and in the iconic dessert wine Sauternes (also from the Bordeaux region).
  • New Zealand. The signature grape of New Zealand, especially in the Marlborough region.
  • California, Napa Valley, Sonoma Valley, and Central California. California is home to some wonderful, fruity and acidic versions of Sauvignon Blanc. In Sonoma, Dry Creek Vineyards is one of the wineries that also bottles a Fumé Blanc - which has spent some time aging in oak barrels.
  • Chile. The Valparaíso region of Chile is also home to some Sauvignon Blanc wine, and as with much South America wine, you can find some fantastic values.
Words of Advice. Some things to keep in mind to make sure you get the most out of your Sauvignon Blanc Purchase:
  • New Zealand is King. When in doubt, go with the king. Sauvignon Blanc is New Zealand's signature white wine grape, and you should be able to find many different brands in your local wine shop.
  • Don't Forget France.  Even though the label won't say Sauvignon Blanc on the label, but branch out and try some French wines - especially from the Loire Valley.
  • Don't Fear the Oak. Aging in oak will produce some different aromas and flavors, 
  • Looking for some good brands to try? There are a lot of choices out there for Sauvignon Blanc - here are a few I think are worth trying.  I admit that I don't know much about French brands of white wine - but do talk with your local wine shop to get some recommendations:
    • New Zealand - Cloudy Bay. This brand can be a bit more expensive at around $20, but don't be afraid of the price (or the screw top) if you are looking for a great example of New Zealand's handy work with this grape.
    • New Zealand - Villa Santa Maria. I highly recommend this label's Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc and also their Riesling - very new world in style, but consistently awesome! 
    • Napa Valley California - Stag's Leap.  This winery makes great Cabernet Sauvignon, and Sauvignon Blanc. Visit their winery when you are in the Napa area. 
    • Sonoma Valley California - Dry Creek. If you want to try an oaked aged version of Sauvignon Blanc, Dry Creek has one for around $10 a bottle - Fumé Blanc.  Also a nice winery to visit in Sonoma, they make some other great wine too. If you have a friend or family member who likes sailing, all their labels are sail boat themed and would make a great gift.
    • Central California - Buttonwood Wines. This wine is not available in retail stores as far as I know, but if you see their Sauvignon Blanc on a restaurant list or are visiting Central California near Solvang - give them a try.  Especially if it is their wine named "Zingy". 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please join the conversation! Questions, comments, suggestions - I want it all!!