Sauvignon blanc is versatile all year, but it particularly shines in the scorching summer we endure this year.
Its crisp acidity and tropical fruit flavors complement lighter dishes and salads. Sauv blanc often is called “salad in a glass.” Nicely chilled, sauv blanc easily is appreciated at the end of a triple-digit day.
Sauv blanc is an uncomplicated wine with vines rambunctiously eager to please. When winegrowers neglect to prune, the wine can have little distinction. That was the case in the 1970s and 1980s when California growers went for quantity instead of quality. Sauv blanc rightly earned a reputation as a cheap jug wine/boxed wine.
Led by Robert Mondavi, some winemakers knew sauv blanc could achieve more and attempted to create a market for “Fumé Blanc” or similar made-up marketing name. Unfortunately, many pursued an oaky style that did sauv blanc no flavor favors.
Then New Zealanders found ways in vineyards and wineries to evoke more fruit expression, creating a style now imitated even in France. Marlborough, in the northern part of the southern island, began producing world-class pours in the 1980s—food-friendly wines with tongue-cutting acidity and vivid citrus fruits.
Much of sauvignon blanc is made to drink young, often released shortly after harvest. That pleases winemakers—they get to turn juice into cash quickly. It also pleases a lot of consumers since you can easily get quality in the $12-18 range.
If you want, however, you can go high-end. Screaming Eagle, Oakville makes a sauv blanc that sells for $5,900—down from $7,180 last year. In France, where wine names come from places and not the varietal, the French call it Sancerre or Pouilly-Fumé. Sancerre is on left bank of the Loire River, Pouilly-Fumé on the right bank. Dagueneau Asteroide Pouilly-Fumé goes for $1,791 a bottle. Edmond Vatan Clos la Neore, Sanerre costs $494 a bottle.
• Concha y Toro Gran Reserva Sauvignon Blanc, Rapel River 2021: Congenial easy drinker rather than boisterous, assertive sauv blanc, but retains SB’s ability to enhance, complement food. $13-16 Link to my review
• Wairau River Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough 2021: Delivers what you want and expect from a NZ sauv blanc. $15-20 Link to my review
• Aperture Cellars Sauvignon Blanc 2020: Dollop of sémillon adds a subtle boost, whole-cluster pressing delivers depth, complexity. $40-45 Link to my review
Last round: This summer has been so hot, when I turn on my sprinkler, steam comes out. Wine time.