There are few wine varieties of grapes in the wine kingdom that take on the characteristics of a particular location more than sauvignon blanc. And since Drink Sauvignon Blanc Day (May 7) was last week, it reminded me how diverse — and versatile — this grape variety can be.
Regardless of its place of origin, not many white wines help to quench thirst or revive the palate quite like a sauvignon blanc. Originally of French origin, the grape has made its way across the globe, taking on a broad spectrum of styles unique to every region where it is produced.
Whether it’s the grassy notes of New Zealand’s style, the tangy zip of Sancerre from the Loire Valley, Burgundy’s exceptional offering from the appellation of St-Bris, or the tropical fruit tones found in California’s version, sauvignon blanc displays unique traits from its country of origin.
When sauvignon blanc is grown in cooler climates, such as New Zealand, it tends to produce crisp wines with green grass, hay and lemon/lime characteristics.
Grapes grown in warmer regions, such as California, offer rounder tropical fruit flavors, while its French cousins from the tiny Burgundian appellation of St. Bris, and the more famous Sancerre region of the Loire Valley — the traditional gold standard of sauvignon blanc — tend to accent acidity and minerality.
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 bestow a touch of creaminess and toast on the finished product.
Between global competition and winemaking styles, consumers have a plethora of tasty choices and great values.
Here are a few exceptional wines to consider.
New Zealand has definitely put their mark on producing value-driven, high quality sauvignon blanc wines. The 2020 Wairau (pronounced “why-raow”), River Sauvignon Blanc from the Marlborough region is a prime example of how good an affordable bottle of this variety can be.
This version features scents of tropical fruit, citrus and grassy notes on the nose. Ripe flavors of passion fruit, guava and pear exhibit fresh intensity upfront and all the way throughout the crisp finish. All you need is a plate of fresh shucked oysters and an ice bucket. $12
If you’re headed to the beach anytime soon, take a bottle of the 2020 Spier Seaward Sauvignon Blanc from the Stellenbosch region of South Africa along for the ride. South Africa has made big inroads with sauvignon blanc, and this wine 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. $17
Of course, you can’t talk about sauvignon blanc without including an example from the epicenter of sauvignon blanc — the Loire Valley of France. The 2018 Pascal Jolivet Sancerre displays prominent aromas of gooseberry and grapefruit on the nose.
Refreshing flavors of grapefruit, kiwi and lemon/lime come together on a crisp, bracing finish, buoyed by minerally notes reminiscent of oyster shells. Try it with grilled chicken salad for a light summertime meal. $25
Merry Edwards has long been known for her beautifully crafted Pinot Noir wines. Today, under the tutelage of Heidi von der Mehden, the 2018 Merry Edwards Sauvignon Blanc from the Russian River Valley in Sonoma has gained enormous popularity.
It features charming scents of citrus blossom, white peach and nectarine in the bouquet. Bright flavors of green melon, honeysuckle and passion fruit dominate the front of the palate while grilled nectarine and zesty lime notes accent the crisp and balanced finish. $48
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