Wine of the Week: Beat the heat with sauvignon blancs

WASHINGTON — Is it hot enough for you? I think it’s hot. Real hot. Darn hot. It’s so hot that I need wine to beat the heat. So I am reaching for the proverbial “fire extinguisher” of wines: sauvignon blanc.

Not many wines help to quench thirst or reanimate the palate quite like a sauvignon blanc. The white grape, originally of French origin, has now made its way across the globe, taking on a wide array of styles unique to every region where it is produced.

For example, sauvignon blancs that are grown in cool climates tend to produce crisp wines with green grass, hay, and lemon/lime characteristics, while grapes grown in warmer regions offer rounder flavors of passion fruit and grapefruit.

While many sauvignon blancs are made without fermenting or aging the wine in oak barrels — in order to accent the crisp acidity — some winemakers use oak during the aging process to develop a touch a creaminess and toast to the finished product.

The sauvignon blancs produced in the Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé regions in the Loire Valley of France were once considered the standard barer for the varietal, but competition from California, Washington, New Zealand, South Africa, Australia and Chile have given consumers a plethora of tasty choices and great values.

Here are a few examples of my favorite way to beat the heat:

New Zealand has definitely become well-known for producing value-driven quality sauvignon blanc wines. Grown in cooler climates, the 2015 Matakana Sauvignon Blanc from the Marlborough region of New Zealand displays scents of gooseberry and grassy notes on the nose. Ripe flavors of passion fruit and pear exhibit good intensity upfront and throughout the crisp finish. All you need is an assortment of shellfish and an ice bucket. $10

South Africa is making big inroads with sauvignon blanc and the 2014 Mulderbosch Sauvignon Blanc from the Stellenbosch region is one reason why. Beautiful aromas of green melon, gooseberries and green hay whirl about on the nose while crisp, delineated flavors of melon, white figs and citrus put a show on for the tongue. Pleasant mineral notes bats clean up on the crisp finish. A winner with fresh shucked oysters. $14

Every time I try the 2014 Matanzas Creek Sauvignon Blanc from Sonoma County, I am momentarily transported back to a porch overlooking the Russian River Valley. The wine is partially fermented in neutral oak and has a touch of Semillon blended in, which accents the charming scents of white peaches, melon and nectarines in the bouquet. Bright flavors of melon, Lychee and passion fruit dominate on the front of the palate while grilled nectarine notes accent the crisp finish. Enjoy with your favorite rocking chair or hammock. $15

Of course, you can’t talk about sauvignon blanc without including an example from the epicenter for sauvignon blanc — the Loire Valley of France. My friend and wine critic, Ben Giliberti, really likes the 2014 Jean-Claude Dagueneau Pouilly-Fumé Domaine des Berthiers. This Pouilly-Fumé is from the estate of the late — and famously brilliant winemaker — Didier Dagueneau’s father, Jean-Claude Dagueneau. The elder Dagueneau’s offering shows off prominent aromas of gooseberry and grapefruit on the aromatic nose. Refreshing flavors of grapefruit, kiwi, and lemon/lime come together on a crisp, bracing finish, buoyed by slatey, minerally notes. Try it with grilled chicken salad for a light summertime meal. $20

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