Great white divide: chardonnay or sauvignon blanc?
Sauv blanc and chard are world’s great white wines. There are dozens upon dozens of other whites, but chardonnay is world’s most planted white wine grape and sauvignon blanc is close behind in terms of a grape variety turned into quality varietal wines.
Chardonnay’s forte is its ability to become almost anything a winemaker wants it to be. Buttery—malolactic will make that happen. Oak and vanilla—coming right up, barrels are waiting. Flinty austerity and green apple flavors—Chablis region of France delivers. Earth and minerality—California can. Big and blowsy with juicy yellow apples, yes sir.
Sauvignon blanc is almost universal food pair, thanks to relatively neutral flavors, famous green nose, and fabulous acidity. Sauv blanc from New Zealand delivers racy acidity with distinctive grassy notes that not only hang with many foods, but play well with vegetarian cuisine. Sancerre region of France—part of Burgundy—produces classic high minerality and superb acidity pours. Want sweeter and fuller? California—where Robert Mondavi coined fake name fumé blanc—can deliver that. So can Australia. Sauv blanc is the palate cleansing wine par excellence. When you are in doubt about wine-food pairing, sauv blanc is default answer.
Tastes are different, too. Chardonnay primary flavors include yellow apple, butter, starfruit, pineapple, and chalk; it often is full bodied. Sauvignon blanc brings white peach, green melon, grapefruit, gooseberry, and passion fruit; it typically is light bodied.
Some people who adore chardonnay cannot sip sauvignon blanc. Some who champion sauv blanc are charter members of ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) clique. Go figure. Enough of us enjoy both to keep wineries making whites operating in the black.
• Tom Gore Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2015: Smooth, easy drinker, superb acidity. $14
• Nobilo Icon Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2016: Delightfully complex, classic Marlborough acidity, sensationally long finish. $20
• Chateau St. Jean Robert Young Vineyard Chardonnay 2013: Full, rich, tart, excellent acidity. $23
• Viansa Signature Series Chardonnay Carneros 2013: Decadently delicious, deft use of oak, vanilla, malo. $45
Last round: Everyone has a hidden talent they don’t know about until they drink that fourth glass of wine. And then they find out why it really would have better to keep that talent hidden and not had that fourth glass.
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