Is it summer yet? Even though it’s just May, it sure feels like it where I live down South. With this type of heat, there’s only one thing to drink this month and it’s Sauvignon Blanc.
Sauvignon Blanc is one of the most important white grapes, and for a good reason. It’s grown everywhere, in places like California, France and New Zealand, and it tastes different depending on the region. So different, in fact, that even in France it differs greatly from off the banks of the Dordogne and Garonne in Bordeaux where the grape produces drier, less fruity wines to Pouilly-Fumé and Sancerre in the Loire Valley where the grapes make big, tangy and mineral driven wines.
Sauvignon Blanc is a powerful grape. Unlike Chardonnay, which is usually oaked in some way, Sauvignon Blanc is generally fermented in steel or neutral (old) oak to preserve the vibrancy of the grape. With some lip smacking acidity, zesty citrus fruit flavors, mineral undertones and a super fragrant nose, it often can be a lot to take in. The aroma of Sauvignon Blanc is sometimes “affectionately” referred to as cat piss by some admirers (yup, you heard us!). This fragrant aroma is said to be held by many top notch estates of New Zealand.
So now the question becomes, what do you do with such a bold wine?
Classic pairings with Sauvignon Blanc are easy to find. The big one you will find is goat cheese. The big acidity of the wine and the creaminess of the cheese pair up nicely together and if you know anything about food and wine pairings, you’ll know that regional pairings work extremely well. That’s why Loire Valley boasts some of the best cheeses in France. Out of 48 cheeses protected by AOC status in France, six of them are from the Loire Valley. Sauvignon Blanc also goes great with seafood and dishes prepared with fresh herbs. Try Sauvignon Blanc next time you have an herb encrusted chicken breast! Delicious all around.
Since Sauvignon Blanc is grown all over the world and is different everywhere you go, the quality and style vary greatly from bottle to bottle. Those wanting a less bold style of Sauvignon Blanc need not go far. California tends to make pretty mild examples of the wine, including the world famous Robert Mondavi winery. This winery produces a wine called Fumé Blanc, who’s name is an ode to the wines of Pouilly-Fumé in France, however, this wine lacks the big mineral influence of the Loire Valley examples. Speaking of the Loire Valley, Sancerre with it’s big, bold wines are great for the more serious Sauvignon Blanc drinker. Easy to find bottles include Pascal Jolivet Sancerre and Jean-Paul Balland Sancerre, both of which are very emblematic of the style. And now for everyone’s favorite Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough! This region in New Zealand produces some of the most fragrant, bold and acidic white wines. Start with an inexpensive bottle of Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc and work your way up to Whitehaven or Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc, both of which are excellent showings of the style.
Sauvignon Blanc is definitely a decisive grape. It’s big, bold flavors and zipping acidity make it both easy and hard to pair with food. The wide array of styles it comes in also makes it a harder grape to understand. We suggest you try many different bottles of Sauvignon Blanc until you find one you like. And don’t forget to enjoy the process, wine is supposed to be fun after all!
Top image via Vine Pair