Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon blanc is a green-skinned grape variety which probably originates from the Bordeaux region of France. It is now planted in much of the world's vineyards. Sauvignon Blanc, is, without a doubt, one of the most versatile of grapes. Sauvignon derives from “sauvage”, or “wild”, and is also the “mother” of Cabernet Sauvignon. In fact, old records list these two as Sauvignon Blanc, and Sauvignon. Sauvignon Blanc’s unique methoxypyrazines (flavor compounds) manifest themselves as grassy, herbaceous, even cat pee like aromas at their most pungent. The riper the grape, the more the flavors move into the melon/tree fruit spectrum. The wines at their best are zesty, zingy, vibrant, though quite often softened with toasty oak.

Sauvignon was not considered a great wine until Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé were 'discovered' in Paris in the 1960s. Smoky, flinty Pouilly-Fumè and Sancerre from chalky soils in the Loire Valley and Bordeaux Blanc are classic French examples. Friuli in Italy and Styria in Austria also are sources of lean, racy styles. California, Chile, and South Africa are turning out an impressive range in all styles and price points as well, following the tremendous success of the well-priced, varietally-expressive New Zealand versions, of which Cloudy Bay is thought to be the best.

This white varietal is, without a doubt, one of the most versatile of grapes. From dry, tart, mouth puckering to rich, creamy, and oaky and even to dessert wines, there is a Sauvignon Blanc for every taste and budget. In California until the 1970s it was usually made as a nondescript semi-sweet wine until Robert Mondavi made a dry varietal he named Fumé Blanc (a reference to Pouilly Fumé) to distinguish it. Since it has taken on steam as a marketing term applicable to both a dry, crisp style as well as a heavier, oakier style, depending on the whim of the winery. His was modeled after the Loire Valley’s smokey, racy Pouilly-Fumè. Robert Mondavi’s was, for the past several decades, California’s finest Sauvignon Blanc.  Robert Mondavi’s Fumè Blanc Reserve, Tokalon, I-Block, Napa Valley, a decadently rich, creamy, toasty, and full-bodied wine, is from 54-year old vines. Dry
Creek Vineyards has 30-year old vines at its estate in Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma. While California styles are all over the map, the classic New Zealand and South African versions are typically modeled after the fresh, unoaked Loire and Bordeaux styles but with riper profile.

Sauvignon Blanc: grassy, herbaceous, pungent, melon, tree fruit, zesty, light and crisp to full and oaky.

Sauvignon Blanc: Bordeaux, Loire, Friuli, Alto-Adige, Styria, Marlborough, Mendocino, Sonoma, Napa Valley, Curico, Elgin, Groenekloof.

Domaine Didier Dagueneau Pur Sang, Blanc Fumé de Pouilly, Loire Valley (France)
Domaine Vacheron Sancerre Les Romains, Loire Valley (France)
Terlano Sauvignon Blanc “Winkl,” Alto Adige (Italy)
Cloudy Bay Tekoko Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough (New Zealand)      
Robert Mondavi, “To Kalon Vineyard, I-Block”, Napa Valley, California (USA)

Best Value
Pascal Jolivet Sancerre, Loire Valley (France)
Merlin Cherrier Sancerre 2003, Loire Valley (France)                                                           
Miguel Torres Santa Digna Sauvignon Blanc, Curico (Chile)                       
Dry Creek Vineyards “DCV-3” Sauvignon Blanc, Dry Creek Valley, California (USA)
Ceago Sauvignon Blanc, Kathleen’s Vineyard, Mendocino, California (USA)       
Iona Sauvignon Blanc, Elgin, Walker Bay (South Africa)
Neil Ellis Sauvignon Blanc, Groenekloof, Swartland (South Africa)                    

© Copyright 2014 Master Sommelier Catherine Fallis, Planet Grape LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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