Wine consumers are often confused by wines made primarily from a single grape variety. The bottles typically display the name of that variety on the label but there are a lot of them and more are created all the time as wine producers realize that such specificity can lead to higher margins and, perhaps, higher quality as well. Here I focus on sauvignon blanc and chardonnay, two iconic white wine grapes that, when crafted into varietal wines in the New World, exhibit bright flavors that pair well with a wide variety of dishes.
Sauvignon blanc is a green-skinned grape variety from Bordeaux in France that most likely gets its name from the French word sauvage (“wild”) and blanc (“white”). A possible descendant of savagnin, sauvignon blanc is planted in many of the world’s wine regions, producing a crisp, dry, and refreshing white varietal wine. The grape is also a component of the famous dessert wines from Sauternes and Barsac. It is widely cultivated in France, Chile, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Brazil, Moldova and California, where some are also called fume blanc, though this is often perceived to be a different type of wine. Depending on the climate, flavors can range from aggressively grassy to sweetly tropical. When slightly chilled, sauvignon blanc pairs exceedingly well with fish and cheese, particularly chèvre, and is also one of the few wines that can handle sushi.
Chardonnays from the New World are also great examples of varietal bottlings. The grape originated in Burgundy, France, and is green-skinned and neutrally flavored, which allows specific terroir and winemaking techniques to make their marks on color, aroma, and taste. Vinified in many different styles, it is now grown wherever wine is produced and is an important component of many sparklers, including Champagne. Chardonnay is one of the most widely-planted varieties in the world, with over 160,000 hectares (400,000 acres) currently under vine, and is now grown in more wine regions than any other grape. It is very malleable and matches well with cheese, chicken, veal, and even roast beef.
Today’s notes were gathered from recent samples and at industry gatherings. I include my tasting notes at the end of the column in shorthand that goes like this: appearance (if relevant)/aroma/taste/acidity & finish. If I can find a domestic retail price then I list it (if there is more than one I err on the higher side), with “N/A” meaning that the wine is not generally available in the U.S.
BEN’S ARTICLE ON THE RUTHERFORD DUST SOCIETY IN EDIBLE MARIN AND WINE COUNTRY MAGAZINE
Ben has an article about the Rutherford Dust Society in the Napa Valley (as well as a sidebar on legendary grape grower Andy Beckstoffer’s contribution to Rutherford’s wine scene) in Edible Marin and Wine Country Magazine (www.ediblemarinandwinecountry.com). This edition also includes stories on the recent Napa earthquake and the Rutherford Dust Society. Check it out!
BEN’S WINE COUNTRY PICTURES ARE FOR SALE
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Giesen Sauvignon Blanc 2014 (Marlborough, New Zealand) $10
Light yellow/grapefruit, pine/pith, ash, honey/hilong
Francis Coppola Sauvignon Blanc Diamond Collection 2014 (California, U.S.A.) $15
Pale yellow/lemon, pineapple/white flowers, lime zest/medmod
Wente Sauvignon Blanc Louis Mel 2013 (Livermore Valley, California) $15
Straw/green grass, flint/honeydew melon, fresh pineapple/hilong
Trione Sauvignon Blanc RRV River Road Ranch 2014 (Sonoma County, California) $23
Pale yellow/honeysuckle, papaya/muskmelon, toast/hilong
Flora Springs Sauvignon Blanc 2014 (Napa Valley, California) $25
Bright yellow/toast, melon/Buddha’s lemon, licorice/hilong
Alamos Chardonnay 2013 (Mendoza, Argentina) $10
Pale/smoke, mace/dried yellow pear, sweet lime, ginger/himod
Wente Vineyards Chardonnay Riva Ranch Arroyo Seco 2013 (Monterey, California) $22
Bright yellow/pineapple, lemon/butter, popcorn, ash/hilong.
Wente Vineyards Chardonnay Morning Fog 2014 (Livermore Valley, California) $15
Greenish yellow/green apple, papaya/vanilla, brioche/himod.
Wente Vineyards Chardonnay Eric’s 2014 (Livermore Valley, California) $25
Light yellow/lemon, green apple and pear/pineapple, nectarine/medmod.
Moniker Chardonnay 2013 (Mendocino County, California) $23
Gold yellow/green pear, yellow apple/flint, apple pie/medmod
Miner Family Chardonnay Wild Yeast 2011 (Napa Valley, California) $50
Gold-yellow/yellow pear, toasted Filbert/Fuji apple, cinnamon toast/hilong
Jordan Chardonnay RRV 2013 (Sonoma County, California) $30
Zest yellow/green pear, bright lemon/Juan Canary melon, quince/hilong