Tasting Sauvignon Blanc for Summer

IMG00125-20090606-1527“I want a wine that tastes like summer,” the chic woman tells the clerk at an upscale wine store. “Something that pairs well with grilled skewers of fresh shrimp and swordfish. What do you recommend?”

If you were the clerk, what would you advise? A briny Muscadet? A buttery Chardonnay? Perhaps an exotic Albarino from Rias Baixas in Spain? All are appropriate, but the keyword here is “summer in a glass.” If you know your way around a wine store, your suggestion would probably be a Sauvignon Blanc from either the New or Old World.

Though its home is in Loire Valley of France, most Americans are more familiar with the fresh vibrant taste of Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. California produces some good wines from this grape, yet as a whole the region lacks the characteristic soil and microclimate of its foreign competitors. Despite its herbaceous, fruity aromas the grape thrives in cool but sunny climates, as cool nights allow the grape to retain its high acidity, while sunlight allows the development of its characteristic aromas. All wines from the Sauvignon Blanc grape pair excellently with grilled seafood, cervice (thin slices of seafood or fish “cooked” in lime) and fresh goat cheese, a classic pairing in the Loire valley.

This week, let’s taste three Sauvignon Blanc wines, each a popular representation of their region. Traditionally these wines are fermented in Stainless Steel to preserve their freshness and lively acidity, and should be consumed within a year of purchase. Prices vary depending on store and region.

Chateau de Sancerre 2006, Sancerre AOC

This Sauvignon Blanc is a classic from France’s Loire Valley. Chateau de Sancerre is an ancient estate now owned by the Marnier-Lapostolle family, makers of Grand Marnier. The nose offers assertive aromas of pebbles, flint, minerals, and wet stone (reflecting the varied soils of flint, clay, limestone) as well as pronounced citrus notes of lemon and lime. On the palate, citrus dominates and you can actually taste the sharp minerals and stone. 90/100 points, roughly $18

Brancott Sauvignon Blanc 2007, Marlborough, New Zealand
Though the Sauvignon Blanc grape was born in the Loire Valley, it gained its current popularity in Marlborough, in the South Island of New Zealand, the sunniest part of the country. Brancott is one of the well-known and largest wineries in the region. Fresh and lively, this wine offers pronounced aromas of lime, cut grass, and the sharp gooseberry aroma characteristic of New Zealand wines. 85/100 points, roughly $18.

Kunde Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2007, Sonoma, California

Kunde Estate has created a wine that falls between the lime and fresh herb dominated Brancott and the mineral-driven Chateau de Sancerre with its aroma of white flowers and citrus, and softer palate of yellow grapefruit and white magnolia flowers. Though acidity is substantial, the wine seems less assertive than its more pronounced and confident brethren. Unlike the previous two wines, this may be a result of two factors. First, though the majority of the wine is fermented in stainless steel, 20% of the cuvee is aged in French oak. Second, this wine is a blend including 14% of Semillon (a richer grape) and 2% Viognier. A solid wine for the price. $13, 75/100 points.

So which wine to choose? As you can see from the scores, the Chateau de Sancerre represents an Old World style in terms of the minerality yet also has the concentrated citrus profile characteristic of a New World, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. If you love classic Sancerre yet desire a high-acid zing, this is your wine. With its lively, lime-driven acidity Brancott really needs to be paired with the right cuisine to work its magic. Kunde Estate offers tremendous value and balance between high acidity and fatter, fruitier flavors and can work well as an aperitif or wine to pair with foods.


Marisa D’Vari

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