Value Vino: Summer Sauvignon Blanc
Published: July 18, 2012
So yes, it's summer; if you'd rather be belting brewskis, don't let me attempt to stop you. But if an occasional glass of chilled white wine doesn't sound too tony, I have been doing some legwork. Or make that … never mind.
It also happens that Ray Isle, a reliable and unpretentious wine writer for Food & Wine (August), has been doing the same thing, and we both settled on sauvignon blanc. He takes you around the world to note how different growing conditions influence the outcome, and so do I — though with different examples. Here are mine.
California: The Morro Bay 2009 Split Oak Estates Sauvignon Blanc Sur Lie (around $10) is labeled as "California" so we don't know the source of the grapes, and in any case production methods may trump provenance as the wine spends time on the lees (spent yeast) and tastes Frenchy and woody-yeasty as a result. The fruit isn't the expected melon with other tropical notes but rather more like fig with some baked apple.
South of France: Jaja de Jau 2010 Sauvignon Blanc Côtes de Gascogne (around $10). Jaja is old French slang for an everyday glass of wine, and this simple quaff shows its roots in garrigue (coastal underbrush) territory by coming across as dustily herbal with some grass, almond, and mineral — different from a French, cooler-climate Sancerre in its downplaying of citrus, which shyly emerges only with time in the glass.
Casablanca Valley Chile: The 2011 Los Vascos Sauvignon Blanc Domaines Barons de Rothschild (LaFite) ($10-$11) betrays a cooler climate upbringing by delivering pretty passion fruit and light gooseberry aromas and flavors. But the wine is also multi-dimensional and complex, hinting as it does of herbs such as tarragon and offering a whiff of warmer-climate ripe melon and a hint of citrus — something for everybody, but not in a fast-and-loose kinda way.
Marlborough New Zealand: The Goldwater 2010 Sauvignon Blanc (around $18) is produced in Marlborough's Wairau Valley, among the coldest of New Zealand's appellations. It's typical NZ stuff with grapefruit, gooseberry, and lime peel, but not as in-your-face as many. Crisp and refreshing, it would be great with cold shrimp or even oysters. My favorite of the bunch.