This week we’ll continue our series of discussions about the world’s most important wine grapes–where they’re from orginially, where each is grown today, and the styles you can expect to find.
I’ll be in Europe the last two weeks of September, taking small groups to Italy and Spain, so our eWine of the Week schedule for that month will begin the fifth Wednesday of August and end the first Wednesday of October.
Taste something good this week!
The reemergence of the sauvignon blanc grape in recent years is one of the great stories of wine history. For years it was touted as the second best white wine grape after chardonnay (with the possible exception of riesling), but it just stopped selling. Most bottlings just seemed a little predictable, less than exciting. California “Fume Blanc, which is made with sauvignon blanc grapes, enjoyed some years of popularity but that began to wane as well.
When New Zealand’s unique “modern style” of sauvignon blanc came into the market, it caused an explosion that continues today. Today, after more than a decade of intensive vineyard expansion, New Zealand still cannot keep up with the worldwide demand for its wines. They’re often described with terms like kiwi, lime and gooseberry (though I can’t help but wonder how many wine critics have tasted gooseberries lately).
These wines have influenced wine styles in just about every other winemaking country, giving wine lovers a treasure trove of white wines that are perfectly suited to summertime. California wines sometimes mention “made in the New Zealand style” on the back label. Chile does this style now, Washington does it, South Africa does it very well—even France does it, and that’s where sauvignon blanc grapes came from in the first place.
This fresh modern style is as welcome before dinner as an aperitif as it is as an accompaniment to lighter, warm weather menus. It’s an especially good match with lighter seafood dishes and is even great with lunchtime salads.
They somehow seem to come off at once dry yet fruity, with a tart, bracing acidity that picks up a meal like few other wines can. It’s simple and direct yet interesting, a fruit-centered style with little or no oak flavors to compete. Plus, many of today’s sauvignon blancs begin with an appealing floral nose that you can almost detect at arm’s length.
Some examples are more intense than others, with enough acidity “to peel the enamel off your teeth” and sometimes people get a little worn out with it. Others are less intense, but still zippy, bright and floral.
For a clean balanced style with pure fruit flavors, I like RiverAerie Columbia Valley Sauvignon Blanc, made by veteran winemaker Ron Bunnell. In fact, I liked it so much that I became the Arkansas distributor. Price: approximately $12.99.
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