Tag Archives: Sauvignon Blanc

A Study in Wine: Sauvignon Blanc

As the sun streams in my window and the breeze carries chilly but intoxicating smells of renewal, my mind wanders to thoughts of summer. My favorite summer wine is Sauvignon Blanc. Like a storybook princess, Sauvignon Blanc has a regal family, spent time being a wild child, has been nobly married to another that calms her down, revitalizes elegance, and if all goes well, lives a very long, sweet life.

What Is Sauvignon Blanc?

A Study in Wine: Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc is a green-skinned white wine grape whose name is thought to come from the French word for wild, Sauvage. Her origins are most likely French, as in the 18th century, she was crossbred with Cabernet Franc to produce the world’s most prized grape Cabernet Sauvignon. She is grown in cool and warm climates but produces the best wines when balance between the two is found.

Where Does Sauvignon Blanc Grow?

Sauvignon Blanc is at home in many places around the world. In France, if Chardonnay is Queen, she is–you guessed it, the Princess, taking on many roles, from partnering with rich, round Semillon in Bordeaux to standing alone in the chalky or flinty soils of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé. In Bordeaux, Sauterne specifically, when Botrytis Cinerea–a fungus that dehydrates grapes, more romantically known as Noble Rot–is introduced to the dynamic duo of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, sweet, ageable dessert wines are produced.
In California, fresh fruit forward Sauvignon Blancs are made generally in areas of moderate warmth to keep acidity levels high and sugar levels on guard. Sauvignon Blanc is slow to sprout but ripens early, so attention must be paid, or the wines will come out overripe and flabby. Many wineries choose to call their Sauvignon Blanc Fume Blanc, though there is no true difference. The name was introduced by Robert Mondavi in the late ‘60s, because when he tasted his wines, they reminded him of the smoky characteristics of Pouilly Fume.
Sauvignon Blanc is as relatable to New Zealand as a Koala Bear is to Australia. Though grown on all parts of the country, Marlborough, located at the north end of the south island, produces the most, making up 80 percent of the plantings. From the late ‘90s to now, these wines have had a meteoric rise, influencing how Sauvignon Blanc is perceived worldwide.
Other places to find good-quality SB are Chile, Argentina, Washington, Australia and Northern Italy.

What Does It Taste Like?

Whatever region you choose to try, Sauvignon Blanc will, in general, always have notes of grapefruit, melon, and passion fruit. Like a sound mixer, the extremity of each will be heightened by the region. In Bordeaux, the sweet melon character of Semillon will soften the racy citrus components. In the Loire regions of Sancerre and Pouilly Fume, the aroma of these wines is that of peach and gooseberry with crisp, clean acidity and wonderful minerality on the palate.
California has two styles right now: those influenced by the popularity of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and those that take advantage of long, warm days but have the skill to keep acidity levels in check. Personally, I like the later. When I am drinking California SB, I want it to reflect the nature of California. I look for more melon and stone fruits, with moderate acidity. I previously wrote about the Honig winery, and Michael and his team do it just right.
The New Zealand style is more “in your face” with notes of fresh-cut grass, grapefruit and passion fruit, and the acidity levels are normally mouthwateringly high.

What Does It Pair With?

Crustaceans and mollusks are terrific when paired with minerally French Sauvignon Blanc; California and New Zealand varieties pair with seared scallops; leafy, green salads; sushi; and grilled chicken or pork. Creamy dips, like spinach artichoke or white fish, are good as well since the crisp, fruity, cleansing components wake up flavors. I advise against pairing SB with anything too spicy or anything with a red sauce since the acids will fight instead of compliment. As far as cheese goes, Chevre (goat cheese) is classic, but brie and some sharp cheddars work as well. Blues, such as stilton and gorgonzola, paired with the honeyed sweetness of Sauterne can be astounding.

Which Are Your Favorites?

PKNT Sauvignon Blanc Chile $6.99 –
Notes of bell pepper and lemon-lime citrus with a long, crisp finish. This wine is a steal!

Crossings Sauvignon Blanc, Ataware New Zealand $14.99 –
Gooseberry, passionfruit and white honeysuckle flowers abound in this classically New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. The finish is long and lean, leaving you wanting more.

Domaine Etienne Daulny Sancerre $19.99 –
Floral and stoney on the nose, with lovely notes of Pomelo grapefruit, fresh-cut herbs and just a hint of pear on the palate.

Sauvignon Blanc, with her long and storied history, is still unknown to some wine drinkers. As the temperatures rise and summer nears, she is perfect to take to an outdoor picnic, accompany grilled fare, or relax with poolside.


-Jennifer Laurie

Which are your favorite Sauvignon Blancs?

Sushi Wine

If you have been in the store lately, you may have noticed some changes.  The biggest change being the addition of our Mon Jin Lau Sushi counter.  That’s right, the quality sushi you have been experiencing in their restaurant since 1969, is now at Nino’s! And to be quite honest, I couldn’t be happier. I am a big fan of Sushi, but an even bigger fan of Mon Jin Lau’s – if you haven’t had their crispy duck, you must!

I have never been a big proponent of Sake, and I have tried a lot of it.  Though it may be the first thing that comes to mind when pairing sushi, I have been chewing through a lot of Mon Jin Lau’s tasty treats lately and have come up with some wines that I think pair great!

Great Sushi Wines

Lini NV White Lambrusco Emilia-Romagna Italy $14.99

I know, I know! Lambrusco!? Yes, Lambrusco, but this is not your Ma’s Lambrusco, all syrupy and sweet. This wine is what you get at a café on a hot summers day in Italy. Toasty on the nose like champagne, with creamy lush bubbles, and a slight hint of that ricey sake flavor on the finish.  Terrific with Spicy Tuna Roll or Firecracker Roll.

HB Picpoul De Pinet Coteaux Du Languedoc France $10.99 –

Picpoul is always one of my favorite spring wines, but it works very well with the delicate flavors of sushi.  Lime and grapefruit, fresh and clean, this wine would pair best with Shrimp Nigiri or the Rainbow Roll.

The Beach House Sauvignon Blanc Western Cape South Africa $9.99 –

Bright and refreshing, this wine would go best with rolls that feature cream cheese and avocado, with fattier fish like tuna and salmon. Loads of classic gooseberry and citrus, with 20% Semillon to give it some body.

Echelon Pinot Noir California $9.99 –

Soft and fruity, this tasty little pinot does not over power your meal, but can stand up to a hearty Godzilla Roll.  Light bodied with black cherry, plum and baking spice on the finish.

Keep in mind that there are many different types of sushi, from mild and creamy to bold and spicy! The key is to bring balance with the wine, so bright acidity for creamier rolls and a softer fruiter wine for spicy rolls.  Something like the Lini Lambrusco, soft and fruity with a dry finish will work best when sampling a variety of different rolls.

So next time you are in any of our stores, make sure to pick up some Mon Jin Lau Sushi!


– Jennifer Laurie

Patio Party Pleasers!

This time of year as I walk my favorite wine seekers around the department showing them the newest and latest in the wine world, I start to get the sideways look and comment, “Maybe some whites?”  Everyone is more than ready for the weather to break, roll out the patio furniture, sit back and enjoy the summer with their favorite cooling and refreshing white wines. Here are some of my favorites!

New Age White Blend, Mendoza, Argentina $8.99 –

A definite summer favorite, the New Age is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Muscat.  The Muscat gives the wine a touch of sweetness while the Sauvignon Blanc keeps it bright and refreshing.  The wine maker for New Age recommends serving the wine with a splash of lemon, lime, and club soda for a refreshing spritzer!

Mezza Corona Pinot Grigio 2009, Vignetti Delle Dolomiti, Italy $8.99 –

This is one of my “go to” Pinot Grigios.  On the nose: kiwi, lime, and green apple that all follows through on the palate. A cleansing finish lends itself to summer picnic salads like our new Creamy Gemelli Pasta Salad.

St. Kilda Chardonnay South Eastern, Australia $9.99 –

Last year Wine Spectator gave St. Kilda Best Value for its 2009 Chardonnay and I couldn’t agree more.  On the fruity side of Chardonnay, this Aussie is ripe with peach, apple, melon, a great pairing for fried chicken.

Three Pears Pinot Gris 2010, California $10.99 –

The folks at Mason Cellars brought us Pomelo Sauvignon Blanc, and on the coattails of that success have ventured out to make a new Pinot Gris called Three Pears.  Now if you have never had Pinot Gris, this is a very nice one, but not necessarily classic.  Many Pinot Gris do have Pear nuances, but this takes it to a new level. Bartlett Pears jump from the glass while on the palate; there is a juicy quality with nice minerality.

Elizabeth Spencer Sauvignon Blanc 2009, Mendicino California $17.99 –

I have been blown away by the layering, complexity, and affordability of the Elizabeth Spencer Wines.  I have tasted the Cabernet Sauvignon ($34.99) and now the Sauvignon Blanc and would put them up against any wine that sold twenty dollars more. This wine has the grapefruit that you might expect from Sauv Blanc, but it is a lighter and sweeter ruby red Grapefruit flavor than the archetypical New Zealand, with their “kick you in the teeth” acidity. Smells of summer like apple blossom, fresh cut grass and citrus on the nose with white peaches, nectarines and just a hint of slate on the finish, this wine is a showstopper.

So this summer, keep cool with these refreshing food-friendly crowd pleasers!


– Jennifer Laurie