By Bruce Cochran
I just saw some interesting news on the wine press: The United States is on track to becoming the world’s largest wine market. It should happen around the year 2010, which isn’t that far away. Italy will remain second. Wine consumption in France has been declining in recent years. It’s a good thing we have so many wines from which to choose. This week we’ll look at the world of sauvignon blanc—
wines we see on every restaurant wine list. We’ll discuss the styles that are out there, and the foods they go with.
I’m leaving Friday for South America. Our small group of food and wine explorers will begin in Chile, drive over the Andes to Mendoza, Argentina (their wine capital), then off to Buenos Aires for beef and a little tango time. So, no E Wine of the Week next week.
Taste something good this week!
Last week we discussed the Barbera grape, and where some of the best ones are being grown today. This week we’ll look at a popular white wine for restaurant wine lists—sauvignon blanc.
Years ago this grape was admired, but shoved aside by chardonnay, about the same time that merlot started to edge out cabernet sauvignon. That’s all over now. Today sauvignon blanc is on just about every restaurant wine list and in every retail store. Whether it’s from Europe, the Pacific Rim or any number of other wine regions around the world, most of the examples you’ll find today reflect a style based on a little-known French wine named Sancerre, made popular by New Zealand and now the norm.
These “New Zealand style” sauvignon blancs are at once dry yet fruity, with a tart, bracing acidity that picks up a meal like few other wines can. They’re often simple and direct yet interesting, a fruit-centered style, with very subtle—or oftentimes no—oak accents. This modern, lighter, fresher style is often a better match for today’s lighter, fresher cooking than is chardonnay.
“Pacific Rim” can refer to California, Chile or New Zealand, with the latter having an amplified style with an extremely floral nose, and the first a generally oakier and often a little softer and higher in alcohol. Chile’s can be unoaked for a fresher, lighter style or lightly oaked for a slightly richer texture.
The Don Raphael Reserva is one of the wines that I personally selected and brought into Arkansas, from our small group travels. It’s from the foothills on the Chilean side of Mount Aconcagua, the highest peak in the Western Hemisphere. It’s the only Chilean region north of Santiago, cooled by the mountain’s glacial breezes at night, warmed by the nearby Atacama dessert during the day. That makes the grapes very fragrant. Also it’s very lightly oaked.
I’ll be driving over the shoulder of this mountain once again, in a few days, headed over the Andes to Argentina. Won’t have time to stop, but I’ll wave at the vines as we go by.
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