Editor’s Note: While Carl is out recovering from heart bypass surgery we’ve asked some of his good friends to fill in with their wise words on wine in his absence. Today’s blog is another from guest blogger Stan Minden, Premium Wine Buyer for Chalet Party Shoppe and Belmont Beverage Stores of Indiana. Thanks again Stan!
As a retailer by this time of the year my focus has turned to planning for the holiday season. Someone reminded me recently that it is still summer and that means it is white wine season. What a great topic to write about this week!
What whites do I drink during the summer?
The answer is simple: I drink more Sauvignon Blanc than any other white, even though it is not my favorite white. The reason is that Sauvignon Blanc typically matches so well with many of the foods I like to eat. Just last weekend my wife and I were in Kalamazoo, Michigan, having dinner at Rustica downtown. I had cod wrapped in parchment paper with herbs, capers and root vegetables. So I ordered a glass of white Bordeaux (the primary ingredient is the Sauvignon Blanc grape). For me that was a perfect match.
The origin of Sauvignon Blanc is western France: Bordeaux and the Loire River Valley region. The grape most likely gets its name from the French word “sauvage,” meaning wild and “blanc” which means white. It is a crisp, dry and refreshing wine. Depending on the climate the grape is grown, the flavor can range from aggressively grassy to sweetly tropical. This wine pairs well with fish or cheese. It is also one of the few wines that will pair well with sushi.
While the grape is grown around the world I thought I would profile four different areas:
- Bordeaux (southwestern France)
- Sancerre (eastern part of the Loire River Valley)
- New Zealand
I’ll start with the two Old World locations. As many of you may know, with the exception of Germany the European countries tell you where the wine is from…not what is in the bottle. This is mandated by their strict labeling laws.
A Bordeaux Blanc is a blend which is mostly Sauvignon Blanc. It can be blended with Semillon and Muscadelle grapes. The most common is 75% to 80% Sauvignon Blanc and the rest Semillon. The Semillon grape is a softer tasting grape so it is used to balance the tart grassy flavors of the Sauvignon Blanc. When it comes to cost the cost of the wine there is a wide range available… you can spend as little as $10.00 per bottle to several hundred dollars per bottle for a first growth.
Sancerre is an area on the Lorie River. The gravel soil found along the Lorie River imparts spicy, floral and mineral flavors into the wine. By French law it has to be 100% Sauvignon Blanc. Sancerre is my favorite Sauvignon Blanc. Prices start around $25.00 per bottle and range up to $100.00 per bottle.
New Zealand has made the Sauvignon Blanc its signature grape. It is mainly grown on the south island. New Zealand has one of the coolest growing regions for Sauvignon Blanc therefore the taste profile leans towards the grassy, very tart style. You typically taste a lot of grass and grapefruit in this wine. If you want it big and bold this is the one for you. Prices range from under $10.00 per bottle to $50.00 per bottle.
I think the California style of Sauvignon Blanc is very food friendly. To my palate it is lighter than the other wines we have mentioned. It still has the tart grassy lemon/lime flavors…just not as much. You may see California Sauvignon Blanc called Fume Blanc. Many years ago Robert Mondavi aged some Sauvignon Blanc in oak barrels for a short time. He did this to try and cut the aggressive grassy flavors, much like they do in Bordeaux with the Semillon grape. He then blended the barrel-aged wine with the stainless steel-aged wine and called it Fume Blanc. The term Fume Blanc is not regulated by law so any style of Sauvignon Blanc can be called Fume Blanc. Prices range from under $10.00 per bottle to $100.00 per bottle.
Here’s a piece of trivia for you: Do you know the parents of Cabernet Sauvignon? It is Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc. Sometime in the 18th Century they were paired together. Cabernet Sauvignon gets its fruit flavors from the Sauvignon Blanc and its dry finish from the Cabernet Franc.
Calendar of Upcoming Events:
August 31 – International Cabernet Day (Thursday before Labor Day)
September 15 – International Grenache Day (3rd Friday in September)