Cut through the white noise with Sauvignon Blanc | The Soul of Wine | Indy Week
Pin It

Cut through the white noise with Sauvignon Blanc 

wine.jpg

It's the second week of July, hot and humid. You're looking for a bottle of white wine that you can sip inattentively while you're cooking dinner—a quick fish sauté, perhaps—but it also needs to have the substance to accompany that fish, which will have, say, a lemon-herb-butter sauce. It also needs to be cheap enough that you won't regret pouring some of it into the pan to enrich the sauce.

There seems to be no end to the parade of obscure and often boring white wines. Some are humdrum (Gruner Veltliner); some vary suspiciously in quality (Albariño); some drip with hip but are mostly just novelties (Txakoli); some are almost willfully insipid (Gavi and Soave and all that industrial Pinot Grigio). Most of the rest are hard to find or impossible to remember: just so much white noise.

What to do? Hidden in plain sight is an old favorite, too easily forgotten and generally getting its best expression from French and American winemakers: Sauvignon Blanc.

Common as it seems, Sauvignon Blanc boasts ancestral nobility: its apparently inadvertent cross-breeding with Cabernet Franc, in the 18th century, created what we now consider perhaps the most aristocratic of red grapes, Cabernet Sauvignon. Sauvignon Blanc is also a component of the hallowed dessert wines of Sauternes.

Plenty of Sauvignon Blanc is out there, and much of it is bad. Any product made in ubiquitous quantity—white wine, action films, lawn mowers—will primarily be duds. Yet there are some compelling Sauvignon Blancs from northern Italy, such as those by Elena Walch and Movia. New Zealand has drunk up much of the international market share, and if you like grapefruit juice you'll love the Kiwi versions. Most of these are made expediently in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks, geared toward producing lots of fresh juice.

There's nothing wrong with steel fermentation, but it rarely captures a wine's full shape. It's like the difference between digital and analog music recording: the former may have clarity and precision, but it lacks the latter's warmth and richness. The fullness of Sauvignon Blanc layers green and yellow orchard fruits over a naturally assertive underlying essence. If grown conscientiously, and on appropriate soil, the grape has the concentration and acidity to mature gracefully in neutral oak or other less austere, non-steel vessels before bottling, allowing it to achieve dinner-worthy weight and complexity.

Most of these come from the U.S. and France. There is Sancerre, of course, Sauvignon Blanc's flagship wine and goat cheese's classic pairing. Proceed with caution: Much Sancerre is expensive, and many of the more affordable bottles are blowsy or brittle, sometimes just capitalizing on the name.

American Sauvignon Blanc (sometimes labeled "Fumé Blanc") can suffer from what plagues much American wine: too much new oak. No wine does well with this heavy-handed treatment, but it's particularly rough on Sauvignon Blanc, whose innate acidity gives it its founding character.

Nonetheless, there is some excellent barrel-aged Sauvignon Blanc from California. In fact, some of California's most revered red wine gods, such as Araujo and Spottswoode, make outstanding Sauvignon Blanc.

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in The Soul of Wine



Twitter Activity

Most Recent Comments

Adam makes a really good point about NC ABC selection. This system severely limits customer selection, and only really serves …

by sorghum runner on Wine, bourbon and beer at Euphoria festival (The Soul of Wine)

"Bragging" – after describing theft #1 of $120, Mr. Sobsey details how theft #2 was worth $700, with much better …

by David G on Why light red wines should steal the spotlight (The Soul of Wine)

I regret that "Kavika52" has responded with such vitriol to this story and has made false statements about my character, …

by Adam Sobsey on Why light red wines should steal the spotlight (The Soul of Wine)

Please take the high road yourself Lisa Sorg, and counsel your writers not to invite shoplifting of high priced items …

by David G on Why light red wines should steal the spotlight (The Soul of Wine)

A warning to the commenter: Name-calling violates the INDY's comments policy. Please take the high road and refrain from doing …

by Lisa Sorg, INDY Editor on Why light red wines should steal the spotlight (The Soul of Wine)

Comments

Simply the best caribbean food in town!

by prince on Golden Krust Caribbean Grill & Bakery (Durham County)

Elaine's is an amazing dining experience. The food is locally sourced and everything is prepared from scratch in house. The …

by Wesley Johnson on Elaine's on Franklin (Orange County)

Most Read

© 2016 Indy Week • 201 W. Main St., Suite 101, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation