An ideal wine for the heat of summer, Sauvignon Blanc is high in acidity, which is why it’s so refreshing. This wine is sometimes quite expensive, especially if you go the California route or look to Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé for their famed world-class juice. But, if you look beneath the surface, there are stunning Sauvignons to be had without the designer price tags.
Out With The Oak
Close your eyes and think about a day that’s a hundred degrees. Would you prefer dulce de leche ice cream or lemon sorbet? You’d probably crave the sorbet because it “pops” on the palate. That’s the acidity talkin’. Acid is the backbone of a wine. When choosing a summer white, look for wine that is not oaked, as it’ll have a greater perception of acidity. Many California Sauvignon Blancs are oaked, particularly ones labeled Fumé Blanc, which is one producer’s invented word describing that “smoky” flavor. A little oak doesn’t hurt on a cold winter night, but in the summer, I want crisp and mouth-watering: un-oaked!
Sauvignon Blanc’s acid positions itself well with many summertime foods. The rule of thumb is that the acid in wine should be higher than the acid in the accompanying food. This is why wine and vinaigrette clash (for that reason I dress my salads with olive oil, salt, and pepper). Tangy, fresh goat cheese and Sauvignon Blanc is a classic pairing. See my blog post on tomatoes for a simple and elegant idea in this realm.
Likes Go With Likes
Another rule to eat by: Match food and wine with similar weight or texture. Think about oysters or a piece of trout. These delicate foods would fail to shine in the company of a rich wine. The fish’s subtle composition would get lost. Crisp Sauvignons exaggerate the lean character of food.
Value In The Valley
The region of Touraine in France’s Loire Valley is known as “castle country.” The Sauvignons from there boast refreshing grapefruit and gooseberry qualities. They also feature a certain minerality, thanks to the limestone soils. One of my favorites is Domaine Sauvete Touraine ’08, Oneiros ($14).
Although one of the first lessons on wine is that 98% of the white wines from Burgundy are Chardonnay, the AOC of Saint-Bris, just southwest of Burgundy’s star region Chablis, is one of the two areas that breaks this rule. Saint-Bris boasts Sauvignon Blanc that is known for Chablis-like minerality, and has characteristics of Sancerre. Meanwhile, wine from this area is as easy on the wallet as it is on the palette. I recommend Brocard Saint-Bris ’08 ($13).
Both South Africa and Chile sit below the equator, making all wines from these countries six months more mature than their vintage cousins up north. They are also noticeably “curvier” than their European counterparts. I find the aromatics in these wines fascinating. The pepper family is well-represented amongst the grapefruit and grassy scents. Chilean Sauvignons feature a hint of jalapeño , and South African Sauvignons have a hint of pepperoncini. Lean and juicy, sip ‘em in the sunshine with a tropical crab salad. Two gems in this category are Leyda Sauvignon Blanc ’09, Chile ($12), and Nederburg Sauvignon Blanc ’09, South Africa ($9).