The variety of styles and the expression of the terroir are strong factors behind the worldwide increase in Sauvignon Blanc production. New Zealand is often credited with bringing it to the fore, but Italy, South Africa, Chile and California have expanded planting and production of the once obscure grape, originating in the Loire Valley and Bordeaux regions of France.
Sauvignon Blanc is lively, fruity, and accessible to most palates and paperbacks. For white wine preferences, it can be a refreshing, food-friendly alternative to Chardonnay.
I hosted a California Sauvignon Blanc tasting for friends, which had wines priced from $ 12 to $ 45 a bottle. Each of the five wines tasted were great, but it was difficult to distinguish between them.
Lack of distinction was not an issue in a recent Sauvignon Blanc tasting and discussion with a diverse panel that included Craig McAllister / La Crema (Sonoma County), Daniele Vuerich / Attems (Italy), Warren Ellis / Neil Ellis (South Africa) and Nikolai Saint-George / Cloudy Bay (New Zealand) and Xavier Barlier, Ladoucette representative from the Pouilly-Fumé region in France.
I poured each wine side by side and was impressed by the variety of aromas from subtle and steely to intense and fruity. Again, the taste profile of each wine was exceptional, but unlike the California publications, very distinctive.
Craig McAllister is a winemaker at La Crema in Sonoma County. (Courtesy photo)
The tasting began with the first Sauvignon Blanc vintage from a well-known manufacturer of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from Sonoma County. After the winemaker McAllister with roots in New Zealand came to La Crema, it was only a matter of time. Sourced from the warmer North County’s vineyards, the 2020 La Crema Sauvignon Blanc Rittertal is partially fermented in neutral oak in the barrel for 28 days, which, according to Craig, gives the wine more texture with minimal oak notes. A lively bouquet of tropical fruits and stone fruits with floral notes that run through the aromas and a long finish. Craig pairs this wine with oysters, ceviche, and fried fish.
From the Venezia Giulia region in northeastern Italy, where there are many stony sandstone soils Attems Sauvignon Blanc 2019 represents a wine and a grape variety that, according to the winemaker Vuerich, are of crucial importance for the region. The wine is terroir-driven and balanced with steel, mineral notes on the nose and crisp stone fruit and green aromas. Daniele turned away from the exclusive use of stainless steel and found that egg formats for oak and concrete were increasing in the region. He pairs his wine with roasted trout and risotto.
Daniele Vuerich is a winemaker near Attems in Italy. (Courtesy photo)
Neil Ellis is a pioneer among South African wineries and has been a top producer since 1993 Neil Ellis Groenekloof Sauvignon Blanc 2019 is obtained from bush vines (without trellis) in the hills that run parallel to the Atlantic, where the evenings are cooler. According to winemaker Warren Ellis, the extra sunlight from the bush vines and the use of wild yeasts encourage a range of tropical and stone fruit flavors with green, herbaceous and mineral elements. Warren usually pairs his wine with grilled fish.
Warren Ellis is a winemaker for Neil Ellis in South Africa. (Courtesy photo)
The global rise of Sauvignon Blanc is triggered in Cloudy Bay and the Marlborough region of New Zealand. Although they started producing the variety in 1985, the 2020 Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc is the first vintage of the new winemaker Nikolai Saint-George. A balanced intensity best describes this wine, starting with lively citrus and passion fruit aromas. The unmistakable taste profile consists of a concentrated stone fruit base with subtle mineral elements thanks to a persistent finish. Nikolai talked about the agility of this wine and his preference for pairing it with buttered scampi that were briefly cooked in a pizza oven.
Nikolai Saint-George is a winemaker in Cloudy Bay, New Zealand. (Courtesy photo)
I had the opportunity to visit the Pouilly-Fumé region in 2018. It is located at lower elevations over the Loire from the cliffs of Sancerre. On a terroir dedicated exclusively to Sauvignon Blanc, the rich limestone soils create a more rounded mouthfeel than that of Sancerre. We marveled at the view of the elegant Ladoucette Estate but didn’t visit. To that end, I was excited to have that 2018 Ladoucette Pouilly-Fumé was part of the tasting.
Described by Xavier Barlier as a Sauvignon Blanc with no makeup, it is made with minimal interference with the grapes, which are gently pressed by gravity and produce 80% free juice. It is fermented in stainless steel and then matured on yeast in concrete tanks for six months, resulting in complex tropical fruit flavors and a rich mouthfeel. This wine is a sublime expression of the region and Xavier likes to pair it with Sancerre goat cheese.
These Sauvignon Blanc expressions are distinctive, global, and readily available.
Lyle W. Norton is a Santa Rosa wine enthusiast and blogger who has been writing a wine column for 20 years. Visit his blog at lifebylyle.com or send an email to mourvedre at [email protected]
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