A Grape Highlight: Sauvignon Blanc
I had my first memorable introduction into Sauvignon Blanc with a wine my sister brought back from her trip to New Zealand last year. Unexpectedly, her trip was a life changing experience for....well me. The wine she gave us was bright and crisp, smelling of gorgeous pink grapefruit and paired perfectly with our spicy fish tacos. The taste of this amazing wine spurred a summer obsession and was refreshing enough to keep me moderately cool on hot summer nights.
Like many other grapes, this grape is heavily influenced by terrior. The terrain and soil types in the different areas give this grape unique qualities based off of the region in which it is grown. Few elements remain common in Sauvignon Blanc despite where it comes from: high acidity, low sugar and notes of green pepper. To me, the low sugar levels mean this varietal is less likely to give you a headache the next morning... if you happen to over indulge.
Sauvignon Blanc has successfully been grown in regions all over the world; though this grape is partial to cooler climates. From Bordeaux to Marlborough, this wine has been making a noticeable impact with it's ample diversity within the single varietal. Because of this, there seems to be a Sauvignon Blanc for every wine drinker. While you may not like one from Sancerre, France you may very well enjoy one from Napa.
If your are new to this wine varietal, think of your personal palate. Do you like light fruity notes, or do your prefer hints of minerality? Take a look at the tasting notes for Sauvignon Blanc from these different regions and find where your palate falls:
Bordeaux, France: The birthplace of the grape, used in White Bordeaux blends: combined with Semillon and Muscadelle. The wine will have grassy and light floral aromas. It is a good jumping off point if you are not looking for a tongue punching wine. This is because the acidity is softened by the waxiness of the Semillon.
Napa, California: Often the wine is aged in oak barrels which is not traditional for this varietal. Similar to the effect oak has on Chardonnay, it can cause a more creamy mouth feel. The aroma of these wines are floral, light fruitiness, and buttered bread.
New Zealand: This grape is the superstar of New Zealand. It is perfectly made at a good price point. Though the country does not produce a lot of wine/grapes, they produce high quality wine. You will find heavy hints of grapefruit, lime, jalapenos and gooseberry. (Don't know what gooseberry smells like? Think cat pee, I know that sounds really unappealing - but it is sterile and I like the taste.)
Washington: These wines will have more diverse fruit and citrus aromas. From melon, to pineapple, to granny smith apples, these wines are light and refreshing. You will also find lemon grass and gooseberry notes in these wines. Washington is very unique in the variety of terrior it houses, so finding your preferred Sauvignon Blanc from here may be more of a challenge.
Sancerre / Pouilly-Fumé AOC ,France: Wines from here will be the most bold. These wines contain mineral notes like chalk, graphite, limestone and smoke, that are complimented by grassy and green pepper notes. These areas are located in France's Loire Valley.
Now that you have an idea of where your perfect Sauvignon Blanc may come from, go to your local wine shop and explore the world through wine. It is a very popular varietal so you should not have issues finding one you enjoy. But please stay away from mass produced wines. I do not want you to get a poor taste in your mouth for this varietal due to some giant yellow bottle.
And as always, I suggest you pair this wine with food. I am partial to pairing these wines with Sushi and of course fish or shrimp tacos accompanied by a zesty and spicy slaw. Another great pairing is a bright summer salad sprinkled with goat cheese. Remember, pair like with like. This wine is light and refreshing, so eat something light and refreshing to go with it.
The price point and the versatility of this grape make it a staple for your home. But, do not hold on to a Sauvignon Blanc, unless it is from Bordeaux (because it will be blended with other grapes). The high acidity of this varietal does not allow it to age well on it's own. So buy that bottle and drink up!