Dining & Drink

Sauvignon Blanc

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Wine of the Week: Robertson Winery Sauvignon Blanc

More than 40 years ago, Robert Mondavi created something new from something old.  He called his new style of white wine from sauvignon blanc grapes “Fume Blanc”.  Made to represent the style of sauvignon blanc from northwestern France’s Loire Valley, as opposed to the southwestern French style of Bordeaux, this crisp, lively, only-slightly-oaked wine was sauvignon blanc’s first “modern” interpretation.

Mr. Mondavi didn’t protect the name Fume Blanc, so other wineries soon took advantage of the wine’s success in the marketplace.  Many began to bottle sauvignon blanc in both styles:  Bordeaux-styled “Sauvignon Blanc” and Loire-styled “Fume Blanc”.

Less than 20 years ago, U.S. wine distributors (I among them), were being presented with an ever-increasing number of sauvignon blancs in another new style, from a country that few of us expected — New Zealand.  This style was unoaked, with very tart, “palate-cleansing” fruit acids.  They were described with terms like “gooseberry”, “lime”, “minerality” and “kiwi”.  Those were words that few of us had been using until that time.  Some called New Zealand sauvignon blancs “the margarita of the wine world”.

So once again this fine white wine grape experienced something of a renaissance.  Along with pinot grigio, which began to gain popularity around the same time, this new style of sauvignon blanc began to make the white wine side of restaurant wine lists much more interesting.  Before this, most Americans ordered chardonnay.

And, looking back, it’s not hard to see why.  Sauvignon blanc has always been great with food, especially seafood dishes, and most especially lighter, fresher preparations.  With American cooking moving that same direction, it truly became the right wine at the right time.

Most modern sauvignon blancs combine a French-like eleganc,  New Zealand’s “New World exuberance” with California fruit.  One good example I found recently is from Robertson Winery in South Africa.  Its notes of citrus in the nose and fresh, lively acidity combine to make it very refreshing for this warm summer.  Its retail price is around $10-$12.

Robertson Winery is located in South Africa, at roughly the same distance south of the equator as California is north of it.

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