Sides of Sauvignon Blanc

This common white wine can take on many flavor variations

Sauvignon Blanc has become one of America’s most common white wines. A very distinctive grape, it can smell of both citrus and tropical fruit flavors. It’s versatile, refreshing and a terrific value because it grows well most anywhere.

But Sauvignon Blanc has many faces. It’s malleable in the vineyard—with a little shade the resulting wine can taste less herbal. A cooler fermentation will highlight the wine’s fruit, while warmer temperatures can accent the wine’s minerality. Fermenting in stainless steel yields clean, crisp wines, but barrel aging lends roundness and spice. The following are some of my favorite Sauvignon Blancs, each showing one of the many sides of the grape.

Kim Crawford
Marlborough, New Zealand, $18.50
The flavor of tropical fruit in Sauvignon usually comes on the finish; here’s a wine where the flavors of passion fruit and papaya are up front, leading to a round midpalate and a tactile finish.

Ventisquero “Riserva”
Casablanca Valley, Chile, 2010, $11
Tremendous value here; Chilean Sauvignons have improved greatly and stand poised to challenge New Zealand. This shows some classic Sauvignon grapefruit but is also enlivened with flavors of pear and melon. Drink with steamed mussels.

Napa Valley, 2008, $28
Fashioned like white Bordeaux, this shows ripe, persimmon-like fruit with a soft citrus note and pie spice. If you’re having fish or even chicken, pick this up rather than a comparably priced Chardonnay.

Pierre Duret
Quincy, France, 2009, $17
Taut and deliciously tart with a long, juniper-tinged finish. Bring on the guacamole and shrimp!

Available at Madison’s finer wine stores. If unavailable, most purveyors will special order from their wholesalers if requested. Michael Kwas is wine director at L’Etoile restaurant. He writes this column monthly.

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