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"That Useful Wine Site"
The Sauvignon Blanc Grape

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About Sauvignon Blanc

(Synonyms: Beyaz Sauvignon, Blanc Doux, Blanc Fume, Bordeaux bianco, Douce blanche, Feher Sauvignon, Feigentraube, Fie dans le Neuvillois, Fume, Fume Blanc, Fume Surin, Genetin, Gennetin, Gentin a Romorantin, Gros Sauvignon, Libournais, Melkii Sotern, Muskat Silvaner, Muskat Sylvaner, Muskatani Silvanec, Muskatni Silvanec, Muskatsilvaner, Painechon, Pellegrina, Petit Sauvignon, Picabon, Piccabon, Pinot Mestny Bely, Pissotta, Puinechou, Punechon, Punechou, Quinechon, Rouchelin, Sampelgrina, Sarvonien, Sauternes, Sauvignon, Sauvignon bianco, Sauvignon Bijeli, Sauvignon blanco, Sauvignon Fume, Sauvignon Gros, Sauvignon jaune, Sauvignon jeune, Sauvignon Petit, Sauvignon vert, Sauvignon White, Savagnou, Savignon, Servanien, Servonien, Servoyen, Souternes, Sovinak, Sovinjon, Sovinjon Beli, Sovinon, Spergolina, Surin, Sylvaner Musque, Uva Pelegrina, Weisser Sauvignon, Zöld Ortlibi—though some of those are also applied to the Savagnin grape, aka Fié)

Background

Sauvignon Blanc grapes Map showing the Bordeaux region of France.

Sauvignon Blanc is a white-wine grape originating in the Bordeaux and Loire Valley regions of France, where it remains a mainstay type. It is generally considered one of the dozen and a half or so of world-class white-wine grapes (those in boldface in the varietals list to the left of the page). It is today grown world-wide, with New World SB wines of note coming from New Zealand (especially), California, Australia, Chile, and Washington State.

Map showing the Loire Valley region of France.

Sauvignon Blanc has a strong and distinctive varietal aroma and taste, particularly in New Zealand's renditions. That quality is variously described as "herbal", "smoky" (SBs are sometimes called "Fumé blanc"), "grassy", and sometimes even "pipi de chat" (cat urine); obviously, the quality is hard to describe—but once encountered is never forgotten.

The taste can be much affected by the climate: in cool climates, the wines tend to be sharply acidic, with the characteristic SB qualities foremost, backed by some notes of fruit and flower; in warm climates, the fruit comes more forward but the defining SB qualities correspondingly recede, tending to leave wines that are mildly pleasant but rather characterless. The best specimens are generally felt to be those from France's Loire Valley and from New Zealand. In most regions, it is bottled as a monovarietal, but in Bordeaux it is typically blended with Semillon to make regionally named wines.

It is not a wine that benefits much from aging, and indeed will typically deteriorate if not drunk young, though there are exceptions to that rule of thumb (typically those aged on oak before bottling).

Sauvignon Blanc is also used in dessert wines (notably Sauternes and Barsac), with which we are not concerned here.

Factoid: Sauvignon Blanc may or may not be descended from the Savignan grape, but the two are quite distinct today in qualities, despite which Savignan (and Sauvignon gris, yet another distinct varietal) are often confounded.


Some Descriptions of Sauvignon Blanc Wines

  • Wikipedia

    "Depending on the climate, the flavor can range from aggressively grassy to sweetly tropical. In cooler climates, the grape has a tendency to produce wines with noticeable acidity and "green flavors" of grass, green bell peppers and nettles with some tropical fruit (such as passion fruit) and floral (such as elderflower) notes. In warmer climates, it can develop more tropical fruit notes but risk losing a lot of aromatics from over-ripeness, leaving only slight grapefruit and tree fruit (such as peach) notes. Wine experts have used the phrase "crisp, elegant, and fresh" as a favorable description of Sauvignon blanc from the Loire Valley and New Zealand."

  • About.com

    "Typically a light to medium-bodied, crisp and refreshing white wine with notable acidity, Sauvignon Blanc offers a fairly wide range of flavors. From herbal taste sensations to veggie, and from flavors of grass, hay and mineral tones to a citrus and tropical flavor mix, Sauvignon Blanc displays a very unique wine tasting adventure."

  • Total Wine

    "This dry white wine grape offers distinctive flavors of citrus fruit, melon, fig, herb and sometimes grassiness. Sauvignon Blanc [So-Vin-YAWN-Blonk] can also offer vanilla and creamy flavors when introduced to oak. Typically light, crisp and full of fruit, and thrives as the white wine of Bordeaux and is used to produce the delicious Pouilly-Fumé and Sancerre of the Loire Valley. It has also proven extremely successful in California, New Zealand and Chile. Although wonderful with food, it is also the ideal selection for an aperitif."

  • Wine Folly

    "The primary fruit flavors of Sauvignon Blanc are lime, green apple, passion fruit and white peach. Depending on how ripe the grapes are when the wine is made, the flavor will range from zesty lime to flowery peach. What makes Sauvignon Blanc unique from other white wines are its other herbaceous flavors like bell pepper, jalapeño, gooseberry and grass. These flavors come from aromatic compounds called pyrazines and are the secret to Sauvignon Blanc’s taste."

  • DrinkWine.com

    "The most salient characteristic of sauvignon blanc is its distinctive, penetrating aroma, which can evoke scents of grapefruit, lime, green melon, gooseberry, passion fruit, freshly mown grass, and bell pepper. Grown in cooler climates and in fertile soils promoting excessive vine growth, herbaceous smells and flavors can dominate the character of the wine, while in warmer regions, the melon, citrus and passion fruit aromas and flavors emerge. Most producers ferment and age their sauvignon blancs in stainless steel to accentuate the wine’s crisp, zesty, bracing qualities, while a few barrel-ferment the wine. Malolactic fermentation is rare, and barrel-aging usually is limited to a few months’ duration."

  • Food & Wine

    "The best regions for Sauvignon are the Loire Valley in France, where it takes on a firm, minerally depth; New Zealand, where it recalls the tartness of gooseberries and, sometimes, an almost green, jalapeño-like note; California, where it pairs crisp grassiness and a melon-like flavor; and South Africa, particularly the Cape region, where it combines the minerality of France with the rounder fruit of California."

  • Wine Searcher

    "The key selling point of Sauvignon Blanc is its straightforwardness – the flavors are rarely hidden away in the background. Also, there is a particularly close correlation between the perceived flavors and their descriptors, making Sauvignon Blanc an ideal wine with which to begin wine-tasting lessons. Classic Sauvignon Blanc aromas range from grass, nettles, blackcurrant leaf and asparagus to green apples and gooseberries, and to more esoteric notes such as cats' pee and gunflint. The latter is a sign of a wine from Pouilly-Fume, where the struck flint aroma (known there as pierre à fusil) derives from the presence of high levels of chert in the local limestone soils. This effect is so pronounced and consistent that Sauvignon Blanc was once widely known as Blanc Fumé in this part of the Loire. . . Strange as it may seem, bright, green Sauvignon Blanc has much in common with dark-skinned Cabernet Sauvignon, and not just in the name and region of origin. The bell pepper and asparagus flavors detectable in wines of both types are down to the methoxypyrazine flavor compounds in both varieties."


Some Sauvignon Blancs to Try

(About this list.)

The generally accepted top of the pile is Sancerre, an appellation in the Loire, but most Sancerres are now well out of our price range, though a few good ones can still be found. But there are also other, somewhat less-known "satellite" appellations in the area that do a fine job (though Pouilly-Fumé is now almost as expensive as Sancerre), and we have included some representatives from those. Of course, we have to have a few New Zealand bottlings, and we also included one each from California, Washington State, and Chile (which is rapidly becoming a big SB player).

The quotations below are excerpts; we strenuously urge you to click on the green diamond symbol by each quoted review to see the full article.
  • Jean-Marc Brocard Saint Bris "Domaine Sainte Claire" Sauvignon, $13 - $17.
    (France, Saint-Bris)

    Some quotations and facts:

    [A] classic example of what high-toned and citrusy Sauvignon Blanc can taste like if it is not killed by New Zealand-style herbaceousness or California-esque tropical fruit. Lemony and fresh, with a light floral note on the nose and a richer than expected mouth feel.

    As with all of [Brocard's] wines, vinification and aging occur only in stainless steel. It captures some of the typical characteristics of Sauvignon, with a touch of grassiness and a strong aromatic presence of citrus oils. However, there’s also a clear resemblance to Chablis in the wine’s mineral pungency, like wet rocks with a background hint of sharp cheese. Crisp and full of lively acidity, this is fairly light on its feet though certainly carries enough substance to be relatively versatile on the table. A younger bottle would make for a nice aperitif. Going on three years from the vintage, though, this was Saint-Bris toward the end of its positive evolution.

    ♣ Wine Advocate (October 2010), 89 points

    The Brocard 2008 Saint-Bris Domaine Sainte Claire features lime, grapefruit, cherry, chalk and cherry pit notes that could easily have come from a Chablis Chardonnay. Its rather sublimated sense of Sauvignonness is revealed in hints of herbs and grasses. Bright and lean, invigorating and cleansing, this finishes with intense piquancy and tactile tenacity of citrus rind, chalk, salt, and cherry pit.

    Saint Bris is a cool climate in the world of wine, so the sauvignon is elegant and subtle, like this one, with delicate mineral, citrus and herbal aromas. It’s lean, crisp and citrusy in the mouth with zingy acidity.

    Appearance: Clear, pale straw color with a watery rim. Nose: Clean, medium- intensity level of youthful aromas of primarily grapefruit with a bit of grass. Palate: Dry, medium body/alcohol and medium+ acidity with tart grapefruit flavors. Finish: Medium- length. Quality: Acceptable. I was expecting a more aromatic wine with more herbaceousness based on what I have read about this region's typicity.

    With its distinctive herbaceous edge, the wine has a grapefruit-and-citrus character that offers a bright acidity. It has density and richness, fruity and forward. 87 points

    Grade=Outstanding. Grapefruit, guava and lime characters abound in this very obscure AOC white wine – the only Sauvignon-producing area in all of Burgundy. It is unlike New Zealand SB, showing off much more minerality. Bright, lively acidity lingers throughout its limeade presence.


  • Domaine Mardon Quincy Cuvée Tres Vieilles Vignes, $14 - $20.
    (France, Quincy)

    Some quotations and facts:

    [It] delivers stony, mineral-drenched citrus and orchard fruit aromas and flavors, with very good spine and impressive precision.

    Wow! Domaine Mardon is one of the big names in Quincy, and his 2005 Cuvée Vielles Vignes (85 year-old vines) lives up to its reputation. Just packed with flavor and exotic orange aromas. Its lively acidity makes this Quincy sing. Very fine, and a great value. A Daniel Johnnes Selection. 91 points

    This Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley (about 50 miles west from Sancerre in France) has a nice lemon-straw color and a beautiful intensity. The nose is clear with a medium intensity. You can find some apricot, lemon and minerals notes. As the palate, it is a dry wine with a medium body and a high acidity, you will taste some citrus (lime), apricot and mineral (from the calcareoussandy soil) with a touch of bracken and a long finish.

    Steely, with textured, vibrant flavors of herbs and minerals. **½

    Jesus this is good. Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc done right. Flinty, citrusy and peppery. Tastes like a cool breeze. A fraction of the price of Sancerre and better than a lot of them.

    [Google-translated from French:] Pale yellow color with gold and white. Beautiful aromas with lots of roundness and aromas of white flowers. The mouth is a good balance between freshness, fruitiness and roundness. The long finish reminiscent of light citrus notes.

    [A] fine, limpid sauvignon blanc with flavors of lime, stone and minerals, the wine had good grip, a lipsmackingly marrowy texture, and an appetizing bitter almond, lime and stone finish. It was so fresh that, when comparing it to the Sancerre, I called it fringant. (In French, fringant means frisky, high-spirited.)

    [Google-translated from French:] Quincy 2006 is very successful, the flowery, sweet and powerful nose, a beautiful aromatic aftertaste with hints of peach and lime, very well balanced in the final, tasty as 2005 and ample bouquet. Quincy Tradition got a Bronze Medal at the Concours Général Agricole in Paris in 2007.


  • Cédrick Bardin Pouilly-Fumé, $15 - $22.
    (France, Pouilly-Fumé)

    Some quotations and facts:

    Fresh and lively with herbal, lime and mineral flavors; pungent yet restrained. ***

    Soft and plump, with ample fruit, this sauvignon blanc from the grape's spiritual homeland in the Loire Valley delivers classic regional notes of gooseberry, fresh grass and herbs. Tangy lemon and a whiff of smoke linger on the graceful finish. Where many New World sauvignon blancs shout, this one beckons with seductive whispers.

    Guide Hachette (2009 edition), "Very successful wine" (Vin très réussi)

    The Loire's famous Pouilly Fume region nestled on the opposite bank to Sancerre is renowned for its minerally Sauvignons. This delicious example from a small estate bursts with textbook cut grass and gunflint aromas. A top drop from a superb vintage!

    [Google-translated from French:] A light robe with gray reflections, open nose of citrus, with a smoke point and typical vegetable nuances of Sauvignon; mouth in unison, fresh, mineral and tonic. Gold Medal at the Concours Mondial Sauvignon, Silver Medal at the wines of the Loire Valley, Bronze Medal at the Concours des Vins Mâcon, Bronze Medal at the Concours des Vins de Bourges.

    [Google-translated from French:] It delivers a very pure nose and expressive minerality. An attack, a rise on freshness, but without excess, balanced by a certain feeling bold, make up this bottle, very representative of the appellation.


  • Philippe Raimbault Sancerre "Apud Sariacum", $17 - $26.
    (France, Sancerre)

    Some quotations and facts:

    The wine that we tried that rekindled our love for Sancerre was the Philippe Raimbault Sancerre Apud Sariacum 2003. At a cost of $21, this wine backs a lot of bang for its buck. What made this wine stand out was how it unfolded as you drank it. The nose (aromas) was intense with bright citrus fruits like grapefruit and lime. As we took a sip the citrus fruits came to life on the palette along with some floral and mineral notes. As we continued to drink the wine we noticed some herb and earthy notes. Whew, all of that from one glass of wine (fine it was 3 glasses, but after the first we couldn’t help ourselves).

    90 points, has a transparent lemon yellow color, a beautiful pink grapefruit aroma which carries (cold 39 degrees) over to early palate with just hints of piña colada, wet stone, and lemon grass. With crisp acidity cold and a smooth texture warm, I enjoyed this with spiced Haddock and alone. This wine reminded me of some New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs, and if you like one, I think you'll like the other.

    Rich and balanced with lingering mineral, citrus and herbal flavors. **½

    My absolute favorite white wine in the world is from Loire Valley, France. . . [It] had a light golden color with slight green hues. The nose was strong with hints of wet river stone minerality, honeysuckle, nectarines, fresh peaches, honeydew, sweet tarts, and fresh water. On the palate were notes of sweet tarts, green chiles, chalk, nectarines, flint, ripe oranges, and river stones. This wine had high acidity with a slight creamy texture. Overall, I enjoyed Philippe Raimbault Sancerre because of the fresh taste with complex characteristics and flavors.

    Rimming the glass with a gorgeous golden hue, this 100% Sauvignon Blanc had raging aromatics that came busting out of the glass as if they had been holding their breath the entire time they spent sealed up. Talk about bottled up… Fresh lemon zest shavings, limestone minerality, hints of banana and apparent acidity, this Sancerre was most intriguing with its key lime and kiwi fruit tones. They were so absorbingly fragrant, I was literally smelling them after I put the glass down. With a smooth attack, the exotic fruits and minerality were rich yet still seamlessly refreshing with the kiwi present in the front and the key lime in the back. Medium-bodied with sensible acidity balancing out weight and the fruit . . .

    Nice ripe citrus fruits and good minerality - fresh, complex. Zingy acidity but palate lacks a bit of intensity. (15.29 points)

    Light yellow in color this wine has a gorgeous floral perfume with hints of citrus, melon and mineral. It has great finesse, crispness, and minerality with an underlying supple fruitness showing hints of melon and citrus. This is a delicious Sancerre – Outstanding. ***

    [J]uicy, tangy gooseberry with some leafy blackcurrant bud notes and a savoury, leesy, long finish.

    More grass and green pepper than most, with lovely, vibrant tastes. Good/Very Good


  • Nobilo Regional Collection Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, $8 - $15.
    (New Zealand)

    Some quotations and facts:

    The color is a crystal clear, pale golden yellow. The nose is grassy with tropical fruit and citrus, along with lemon chiffon and magnolia. This Sauv Blanc has a silky mouth feel and a good balance of ripe fruit and citrus flavors and acidity. It starts with a mix of melon, pineapple, green apple and lime. The grassy note that you get in many NZ Sauvignon Blancs muted in the Nobilo. The mid palate brings a brush of minerality along with a little peach and grapefruit. There is a solid amount of balanced acidity running thru the body of this wine, this is a Sauv Blanc made to be paired with food. The finish is tart citrus and lasts a long time. The 2012 Nobilo regional Collection Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is a very solid under 10 buck wine. The flavors are very appealing, the nose is beautiful and the acidity is spot on. Pair this Sauv Blanc with fancy salads, fish on the grill or fresh seafood, cold shrimp or crab legs. Or just drink it, it is a wonderful summer wine and it has enough body and flavor to stay in the rotation when the weather turns cold.

    Pale, greenish straw yellow. Very aromatic with grapefruit, pear, and grassy aromas. Grapefruit, grass, and lime come through on the palate. Dry and light to medium-bodied with very tart acidity. Well-balanced with a long finish. Very crisp and refreshing. Quality: 4 stars (out of 5); QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)

    ♣ Wine Spectator (date unknown), 89 points

    Clean. Watery. Green and yellow citrus rinds, plus grapefruit. Underripe and dilute.

    The bright, white-gold wine abounds in intense herbal, tropical fruit and stone fruit aromas. Flavors have great personality, with lush peach, pineapple and apricot going quite tart, emphasizing citrus at the end. It is wine that satisfies whether sipped or teamed with appetizers or a meal.

    This wine is a pretty standard New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. There is a lot of tropical fruit which comes through both in the aroma and the flavor. This isn’t quite as tart as some comparable wines, instead almost hitting a sweeter note. Overall, I do not think that the Nobilo Regional Collection Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc will disappoint anyone. I understand why the awards it receives are almost always second place. This is a good wine, but it is lacking that which would make it truly outstanding. It won’t disappoint you, but it won’t wow you either.

    There may be no better bargain in the category than the $13 entry-level "regional" label Nobilo from Marlborough, a pale golden juice that has a burst of tropical fruit edged with garden greens.

    Light lime nose. Smooth and well balance with white grapefruit and lemon on the palate and a hint of guava. Good acid. Long lemon finish.


  • Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc, $11 - $24.
    (New Zealand)

    Some quotations and facts:

    This is a classically dramatic Sauvignon Blanc, with aromas of lime, grapefruit, guava, herbs and fresh green grass exploding from the glass. The herbal and lime flavours carry over to the tangy and refreshing palate. The mineral backbone and the fresh acidity give the wine a laser-sharp focus. The zesty finish is long and lingering. 92 points

    This is not the first time I’ve reviewed a Kim Crawford sauvignon blanc. Just earlier this year I posted a review of the 2012 vintage and I loved it. Now, I’m happily enjoying the 2013 vintage — and it is equally delicious. When I find a wine that’s consistently awesome, year after year, that wine becomes top of mind when I’m shopping. It’s an easy pick that I can trust! And while I’m adventurous when it comes to wine and typically want to try something new, I also have times when I just want to grab a bottle I know will be good. This is one of those bottles. I’m not the only one who has recognized how good this wine is. Wine Spectator included Kim Crawford sauvignon blanc in its Top 100 Wines list in 2003, 2005, 2006 and 2008. While they didn’t include it in their 2013 list, I think this vintage is wonderful. If you like intense tropical fruit aromatics and flavors in your sauvignon blanc, you’ll love this one. The nose is loaded with peach, pineapple, grapefruit and mango aromas. The flavors are equally complex and delightful, revealing peach, lemon, grapefruit and mango with good concentration. This is a fantastic wine!

    Fine, nicely herbal and passionfruit nose. There is a nice greengage and juicy nectarine quality. Good balance. Nice grapefruit and lime acidity. Long finish.

    Appearance: clear, day bright, straw, light concentration, green rim variation, low viscosity. Nose: clean, medium intensity, green grass, asparagus, grapefruit, slate, honey, lemongrass. Palate: Off-dry, medium bodied, fruit confirms nose, prevalent green apple, medium minus alcohol, medium plus acidity, medium plus finish, medium complexity. This wine was light, crisp and refreshing with a lovely nose.

    Pale, greenish straw yellow. Very aromatic with grapefruit, lime, and grass on the nose. More grapefruit, lime, and grass as well as lemon zest come through on the palate. Dry and light to medium-bodied with very crisp acidity. Well-balanced and refreshing with a long, lingering finish. Quality: 4 stars (out of 5); QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5).

    Twist it open and the scents of tropical fruit such as passionfruit explode; upon swirling and sticking my nose in the glass I start to receive wafts of peach and citrus. On my tongue, all the flavors of peach, passionfruit, pale apple, grapefruit are present, followed by a twinge of a faint herby quality. This is a snappy little number and that comes across in the finish. This may be a light white wine, but it delivers with zest and acidity in a balanced way. The finish leaves your mouth puckering for more.

    Long a top producer, Kim Crawford has become synonymous with top shelf New Zealand sauvignon blanc, and has become almost a default purchase for me, and with the 2103 vintage beginning distribution in this country right now, in July, I’ll soon be purchasing even more, especially because it is such a good summer food wine. Last year, I picked this wine as one of my top buys of the year for 2012 here at Forbes.com, not expecting it to get [even] better.

    The citrus flavors are balanced by fleshy notes of peach and nectarine, with a spicy finish and plenty of pop from the vibrant acidity


  • Villa Maria Estate Cellar Selection Sauvignon Blanc, $12 - $20.
    (New Zealand)

    Some quotations and facts:

    Pale lemon. This is a much more serious and richer sauvignon now showing the full spread of sauvignon blanc smells and flavours at a riper level than the Early Release: yellow and red capsicums, an interesting hint of pale tobacco and sweet basil, plus attractive yellow kiwifruit and black passionfruit flavours. This is clearly richer than the [Villa Maria] Private Bin, and similarly sauvignon-dry to the finish. Nice wine, good with food. ****

    Tart and fragrant like so many Marlborough Sauv Blancs but it’s more graceful and subtle. It’s also not one-dimensional. Apricots, peaches, red apple and honeydew melon accent this medium-bodied, delicious wine. Salavacious but the acidity is tempered by a richness and it finishes crisp with grapefruit and lime. Lots of layers, like Shrek. Sweetness: 2 out of 10. Rating: 5 stars

    ♣ Wine Spectator (February 2010), 93 points

    ♣ Marlborough Wine Show (2013), Gold medal

    Pale, greenish yellow. Beautiful nose with grapefruit, lime, grass, and melon aromas. More grapefruit, lime, and grass comes through on the palate. Dry and medium-bodied with racy acidity. Well-balanced with a long, lingering finish. Very refreshing and food-friendly. Quality: 4 stars (out of 5); QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5).

    "Usually great value - Reserve fruit that didn't make the cut, or marketing says they can't sell all the Reserve, so de-classified." Very low winemaker input. There's a classy, still hallmark Marlborough character, with plenty of leafy, nettly quality and a gooseberry and passionfruit profile. Lovely sweetness and unctuous quality on the palate, with lychee, mango and tropical nuances, with lovely clean, grapefruity finish.

    Their second tier Cellar Selection Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc has the majority of fruit coming from Awatere Valley, in a slightly cooler, more southern part of Marlborough, giving greener, more herbaceous and mineral notes to the wine, with layers of gooseberry and passionfruit and racy acidity.

    [It] has up front aromas of white grapefruit, citrus and lime, with subtle fresh peas and gooseberry notes and a lively acidic core. ***½

    Refreshing and vibrant, offering tangerine and lime-tinged nectarine and green apple flavors that keep sailing through the long, generous and lively finish.


  • Chalk Hill Sauvignon Blanc, $16 - $35.
    (California)
         ($23.94 at Saratoga Wine Exchange).

    Some quotations and facts:

    If the apex of Sauvignon Blanc production in France is the Loire Valley, then the benchmark in California is Chalk Hill—that northeast corner of the Russian River Valley where a thermal belt runs through its chalky white volcanic ash. And my summer “time to entertain” pick is the Chalk Hill Estate Sauvignon Blanc. This new age blend almost tastes like candied lemon peel with undertones of white peach and a hint of something tropical. Chalk Hill's complexity balances rich and creamy without the usual barnyard hay. Catalysts for its deliciousness include French oak barrel fermentation, sur lie aging and an artful blend of white grapes.

    2009 Chalk Hill Sauvignon Blanc is the kind of Sauvignon Blanc that I love, filled with balanced mineral and grassy notes with hints of citrus and fruit, without being overwhelming. Barrel fermented and aged for 10 months, this is a complex wine filled with ripe peach, mango, lemon peel and passion fruit with layers of herbal and grassy notes.

    ♣ Wine Spectator (August 2012), 90 points

    This pale yellow colored Sauvignon Blanc from Chalk Hill finished in second place in our big blind tasting. It opens with a honey and bees wax bouquet with a hint of lime. On the palate, this wine is medium bodied, balanced, and round. The flavor profile is a mild lemon with hints of green apple and cream soda. We also detected hints of white pepper and vanilla oak. The finish is dry and pleasantly refreshing.

    Fresh aromas of lime zest, lemon curd, talc and bananas. Bright, tart flavors of lemon, lime, passion fruit, white pepper and touch of green bell pepper that are elegantly balanced with a creamy butteriness. Two Thumbs Way up.

    Most California Sauv Blancs tend to be either towards the citrus/grapefruit side with high acidity or, if they from warmer regions, they are tropical and have notes of stone fruits. This one is made in the California Fume Blanc style (made popular by Robert Mondavi) as it is slightly tropical, with stone fruits, nectarines, peaches, mango, melon, fresh lemon, and canned pear aromas. I tend to prefer very crisp Sauv Blancs with a citrus/grapefruit profile and I have a dozen or so from different wineries in my cellar. However, I liked this one as an alternative and picked one up to serve side by side with another to demonstrate the range of styles. So, I liked this wine but I paid too much for it at $33 a bottle.

    Aromatic nose of tropical fruit, white flowers, peach, and melon. Medium bodied, showing stone fruit and citrus notes with a long, full finish. Outstanding! Rating: Gold star.

    The Estate Sauvignon Blanc, which more often than not receives scores of 90 points or above, is a clonal blend. These are extraordinarily rich, balanced wines, never suffering from green, unripe notes.


  • Efeste "Feral" Sauvignon Blanc, $10 - $21.
    (Washington State; this is not their more expensive "Boushey Vineyard" bottling)

    Some quotations and facts:

    Texture, texture, texture-that’s the story with this wine. Fermented using wild yeast, this Sauvignon Blanc dazzles the palate with notes of sweet grass, clover, grapefruit and mineral. It’s made in a lip-smacking, tart and tangy style, with a wet stone finish. 92 points, Editorss' Choice.

    First off, I love it when they put a vineyard designation on the label. This really gives it a sense of place and Evergreen Vineyards is an excellent source for both riesling and sauvignon blanc. This was one of the most interesting of all the suavignon blancs I tasted in this line-up. Aromas of burnt match, Red Delicious apples and a little wet stone and cut grass. I love this nose! On the palate notes of honeyed lemons, grass and minerals come through in spades. There is a little spiced apple element up front with grassy/graphite notes coming through on the mid-palate. A long, long citrus and mineral driven finish. Very unique and interesting sauvignon blanc from Washington State that makes you stop and think. 92 points

    ♣ International Wine Cellar (December 2012), 92 points

    Slightly sweaty aromas of preserved orange, gooseberry and cumin. Penetrating and dry but not quite severe, showing considerable saline complexity to the deep flavors of orange peel, minerals and spices. Very long and firm on the aftertaste. This outstanding summer style of sauvignon blanc would be perfect with fresh goat cheeses.

    This wine is 100% Sauvignon Blanc sourced from the Evergreen Vineyard. It was made with indigenous yeast and aged in 100% neutral French oak. The nose was definitely wild with grassiness. There are grassy flavors in the mouth with a sour-tilt to this different wine with notes of grape fruit. While it is interesting, I was quite distracted by the grass aromas and flavors.

    Light and tight, with grapefruit and sage flavors that dance on a lively structure

    Another wine sourced from the super exciting Evergreen Vineyard. Think grapefruit, slate and minerals. A steal at $20.

    Surprisingly smooth and fruity for a Sauv Blanc. Definitely one of the most drinkable (for my palate) SB's I've ever tasted. Bright fruit, zinging acidity, but not over the top like many others I've had. A touch of sweetness in there too. (86 pts.)


  • Santa Rita Sauvignon Blanc Reserva, $8 - $17.
    (Chile)

    Some quotations and facts:

    Attractive aromatic nose of herbs, gooseberry, lemon and minerals. Complex, intense palate of blackcurrant leaf, gooseberry, lovely, crunchy herbal notes and a long, expressive length. Delightful, grippy and true to the variety.

    At first, I noted a very fruity nose, with grapefruit and a bit of lychee. Later, though, the fruit seemed to diminish a bit, leaving primarily citrus and some floral notes. There is some citrus on the palate, along with some mineral notes. I’d call it slate, but I’ve never actually tasted slate (or most minerals), so I can’t really be sure, can I? The flavors are very bright and crisp. The acidity gives it a nice balance. Very easy drinking. This is one of those wines where I seem to reach the end of the bottle much too soon.

    ♣ International Wine Cellar (date unknown), 87 points

    Decanter Magazine (October 2012), 18.75/20 (94 points)

    ♣ See a set of reviews here.

    This has a hugely grassy nose, with a background of sweet lemon and honeydew. The palate mirrors the nose, with big grassy flavor, some gooseberry, then sweet/tart citrus and melon. Toward the finish it adds a touch of toast. It is a pleasant wine with a lot going on for a very reasonable price. Recommended (88).

    Crisp and refreshing but not much else going on in the nose and mouth department. ***

    The [2011] Santa Rita reserva sauvignon is half pungent Marlborough and half Casablanca cool with its intense gooseberry and lime rind nose flecked with green leaf aromas. The palate is similar with musky lemon and lime rind fruit flavours. Serve is with grilled seafood or spaghetti vongole. Good value.

    The Santa Rita Reserva Sauvignon Blanc holds a pale straw like complexion, with an aroma mixed of citrus fruits, vanilla and light spice. On the palate, the acid levels are acutely prominent and may disappoint if you like your acidity tempered. This Sauvignon Blanc holds a medium to long finish and when chilled, can be quite refreshing.

    This is a perfectly good, honest Chilean SB with snappy, pungent aromas of gooseberry, grapefruit and lime. The mouth is racy as it should be, with textbook lime, grapefruit, nettle and pithy flavors. If there’s any drawback, it’s on the finish, which ends with bitterness. 87 points.


For a Splurge

For a pleasant change, there's a "splurge" wine available at a price scarcely over our limit: the Lucien Crochet Sancerre, famously top-rated (3½ stars) by The New York Times tasting panel. It can be found at retail for from $20 to $35 (more for older vintages).



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