Chardonnay is the number one style of wine sold in America, and it has been for decades. However, if you make selections for a white wine list, don’t forget the expanding sector represented by Sauvignon Blanc. Sauvignon Blanc wines are crisp, light, and easily accessible with fruit flavors varying from citrus, to lemongrass, to gooseberry. They are versatile when it comes to food. And depending on where in the world the vines grow, this grape will reveal the special qualities of the land it’s grown in such as flint, chalk, or herb. It is truly a noble grape, a parent of cabernet sauvignon, and worthy of its star status.
Robert Mondavi started our Sauvignon Blanc zeal when he renamed his dusty, unsold bottles Fume Blanc. Once the public started drinking the refreshing wine, the historically French grape found its way on to the American table. Sauvignon Blanc is easily drinkable. It has a passing effervescence and an enjoyable acidity and fruitiness. It is easy to pair with food, is relatively inexpensive, and can be found in a spectrum of styles. Today, skilled vintners demonstrate their mastery of Sauvignon Blanc in many regions around the world. Standout wines come from Loire Valley, France; South Africa; New Zealand; Chile; Washington State; and California.
In dollar sales, Sauvignon Blanc remains ahead of the trendy Muscat grape, but that may change in 2012 as entry level wine drinkers buy Muscato as the next big thing. Still, with $422 million in 2011 sales, Sauvignon Blanc holds its own (Nielsen Company). In fact, the international beverage trade paper The Drinks Business reports that Sauvignon Blanc is now the top selling wine varietal in the UK, joining and eclipsing Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio respectively (8th, February, 2012). For any business catering to European visitors, this is a hard statistic to ignore.
Hopefully, Sauvignon Blanc’s popularity is not part of a passing fad, only attributable to a fickle American palate; instead, to more and more wine drinkers discovering its delicious nature. In any case, what follows is a tour of affordable and representative Sauvignon Blanc wines.
From Loire Valley, France:
Sancerre, Christian Salmon, 2010, Cuvee Vieilles Vignes Alfio Moriconi Selection. Under $20.00. Medium body with an earthy and herby nose. Taste of grasses and straw, then star fruit and pear. Long finish. Serve with mussels, grilled seafood.
Pouilly-Fume, 2010 Jocelyne Massiot, La Bouchot, Pouilly-Sur-Loire, France. Under $20.00. Medium body with a complex nose of lemon, citrus and lychee. Light flavor of citrus, searching for mineral background notes. Mild finish. Serve with goat cheese and herbed salad.
From South Africa
Indaba, 2010, Western Cape. Under $10.00 Thin bodied, with a grassy nose, taste is varietally correct but simple. Perfect for a day at the beach.
Graham Beck, 2011, Coastal Region. Under $15.00. Light body, with a lemongrass flavor and a tart lemon citrus presence that lasts. Nice with figs and wheat cracker, or with poultry.
From New Zealand
Villa Maria, 2011, “Private Bin”, Marlborough Region. Under $15.00. A clean light bodied Sauvignon Blanc with pineapple and passion fruit on the nose. It tastes of grapefruit, citrus, and gooseberry, with a repeat of the passion fruit. Serve with grilled seafood, seared scallops, and vinaigrette salads.
Kemblefield, 2011, “The Vista” Marlborough Region. Under $10.00. Crisp wine with an earthy nose that hints of grass and even green pepper. Then it delivers a pleasant and beautiful apple, pear, and passion fruit taste that lasted. Very enjoyable.
Kim Crawford, 2010, Marlborough Region. Under $20.00. A medium bodied wine with herb and grass on the nose. The taste is a very good grapefruit and pineapple. Serve with poultry, goat cheese, brie and almonds.
La Playa, 2011, Curico Valley, Under $8.00. Thin bodied wine with light pear notes on the nose. The flavor is citrusy with grapefruit and lemon. The finish is elusive and quick. Enjoy this wine with friends on a boat on a hot summer day.
From Washington State
Chateau Ste Michelle, 2010, Columbia Valley. Under $10.00. Medium bodied wine with complex nose of honey-dew, and tropical fruits. The citrus flavors transition into herbal notes as the finish lasts a long pleasing time.
Napa Valley, California
Grgich Hills, 2008, “Estate Grown” Fume Blanc. Under $25.00. Medium body with citrus nose, pear, lemon and grapefruit. The flavor begins with spice then gives you tropical flavors plus the flavors in the bouquet. Serve with a seafood or poultry that has a cream sauce, or with a mixed seafood salad.
Abbeyville, 2010, Fume Blanc. Under $15.00. The nose gives a hint of caramel then slips to vanilla. This is your first hint that these grapes spent time in oak. There are some grassy notes, so the vintner didn’t overdo it. The taste is a beautiful apple and pear with white currents. Serve with roast chicken, goat cheese, grilled vegetables, or just drink it because it’s really good.
Cliff Lede, 2010. Under $25.00. Excellent wine, medium bodied with an enjoyable nose of lemon and citrus. The taste is complex with yuzu, lemongrass and coriander which lasts beautifully. Enjoy this with sautéed snapper, grilled shrimp, roasted poultry, calamari, or a baby green salad.
Chef T. Steven Dick is Chef/Owner of Kitchen Savant, Inc. and maker of Mangrove Island® Salad Dressings.