Tag Archives: Wine Pairings

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.

Enjoy!

-Jennifer Laurie

Which are your favorite Sauvignon Blancs?

Perfect Picks: Pairing Wine With Seafood

As we turn to the Lenten season, many of us find ourselves scrambling for recipes for a tasty fish dinner. Our culinary guru Chef Pete has an array of fish recipes on his blog, but what wines do you pair with all of these aquatic meals? There’s the old saying of white wine with white meats and red wine with red meats! However, what if you don’t care for white wines? Are you left drinking Chardonnay like a kid who doesn’t want to eat his Brussels sprouts? Or worse yet, are you stuck drinking your favorite California Cabernet Sauvignon, decimating your taste buds, and negating all the effort and subtleties of your dinner? The short answer is no.

For thousands of years, fishermen have been enjoying red wines with their fish. In general, there are two rules to stand by: the first being to drink light-bodied wines with light, flaky fish and rich, bold wines with fatty, oily fish. The second is to drink wines that go with the fish that are found there. Sockeye salmon with Oregon Pinot Noir, albacore tuna with Sicilian Nero D’Avola. Here are some of my favorite wines–reds and whites–that pair swimmingly with fish.

Light Fare

When it comes to shellfish, I almost always recommend crisp whites from Spain or France. The minerality of the Loire Valley whites like Muscadet and Sancerre is a perfect match for the salty, briny qualities of oysters, mussels, shrimp and langoustine. If you must have a red, I recommend a Barbera, either from the Asti region of Italy or California. They are light and easy, with lots of fresh berry; spicy, earthy notes; and a low tannic structure.

White Fishes

With lighter, more delicate fish, such as tilapia, sole or cod, California Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio are good whites to try. Sauvignon Blanc is fresh and citrus driven while Pinot Grigio exhibits more apple and pear. For red, I suggest chilled Beaujolais, Red Burgundy, or Oregon Pinot Noir. Juicy, ripe, red plum; cherries; and hints of banana are found in Beaujolais’ pretty Gamay Noir whereas the Pinot Noirs of Burgundy and Oregon show cherry, spice and earth. If you prepare the fish lightly coated and fried, the acidity of these wines will cut though the oily qualities.

Steakhouse Fish

Generally, if you go to a nice steakhouse, they are going to have a dense, meaty fish on the menu. For these Stallones of the Sea, like tuna, shark, and salmon, I recommend wines with silky textures that are still light on tannin but fuller in body. Chardonnay is very adaptable and I could have thrown it in with any of these categories, but your best bet for a richer piece of fish is going to be a California Chardonnay. Now, this doesn’t mean that you have to order up a butter bomb with more oak than the hundred-acre wood, but a Russian River or Santa Barbra appellation Chardonnay with notes of vanilla and hints of apple will do. Viognier is also a great alternative. Its peachy, floral components along with its bright acidity would be perfect with seared tuna with a squeeze of lime. As for reds, as long as you stick to the rules, you should be good. Cotes Du Rhone, Washington State Merlot, and Spanish Grenache are all very different, but each would work well. They each boast of ripe, rich, dark fruits; spices; and soft tannins.

Whether it’s Lent or you just love fish, I hope my guide will help you find the right wine for you!

Enjoy!

– Jennifer Laurie