Aug. 08, 2012 - Issue #877: Corb Your Enthusiasm
Beat the heat
Sauvignon Blanc is just right for these hot days
The Sauvignon Blanc grape variety hails from France but has been planted around the world. The classic French version, especially ones from the grape's original home in the Loire Valley, are very high in acidity with lemon citrus flavours and often a decidedly "green" quality—think freshly cut grass, herbs or gooseberries. It can also have a mineral or "flinty" quality, reminiscent of damp rocks or supposedly even gun smoke. (It's been a while since I was at the gun range so I can't back that up.)
The most famous appellations in the Loire are Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé. If the label sports those names, you can rest assured that you're getting a typical French Sauvignon Blanc. This grape also makes up the majority of the mix used in white Bordeaux (with Semillon making up the balance), and is another great choice for Old World Sauv Blanc.
The other standard-bearer for this variety is New Zealand. In the 1990s New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc surged in popularity around the world, and is consequently the most planted grape variety in that country. These wines tend to be much more overtly fruity than their French counterpart—expect aromas and flavours of passion fruit, pink grapefruit, peaches and sometimes tropical fruits like pineapple and melon; it is also known for having distinct grassy or green bell pepper aromas. The acidity can sometimes be a little less prominent under all the fruit, though they are still far from sweet.
Other notable New World versions of the grape come from Chile, especially the Casablanca Valley, and California, where it is often called Fumé Blanc. These wines typically resemble New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc in that they tend to have a lot of bright fruit, though plenty also have the usual lemony and green flavours.
Sauvignon Blanc is great on its own, especially fruity New World versions. The Old World ones can be a little lean by themselves, but the high acidity makes them perfect with fish and shellfish—seafood of any kind, really—especially when prepared with citrus. Salads, light chicken dishes, and most types of appetizer / finger foods also pair nicely.
On a final note, you may have heard that Sauvignon Blanc smells like cat pee, or seen the label of a New Zealand wine called Cat's Pee on a Gooseberry Bush. I've never smelled this in any Sauvignon Blanc (and I've been scooping litter boxes my whole life), but apparently there is a chemical compound in this variety that could cause such an aroma that certain people might notice. Still, don't be afraid to try Sauvignon Blanc for fear of ending up with a glass of something that smells like animal urine—even if you happen to be one of the few people sensitive to this compound, it would only be a passing sensation; you've definitely smelled worse. V vueweekly.com comments: powered by Disqus
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