While we all have a wine that represents this change of season that we are enjoying I would argue that no wines does it so completely as Sauvignon Blanc. No other white, save Chardonnay, is produced in so many places and at such compelling price points. The main difference between Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, to my mind, is that for the most part Sauvignon Blanc is all about freshness while Chardonnay runs the stylistic gamut for fresh and crisp to powerful, complex and in need of cellaring.
Yes there is certainly a range of style for Sauvignon Blanc today, but those style speak more about how the fruit of the wine is expressed than some fundamental difference in structure. Sure, there are barrel aged examples, most notably from California and Bordeaux, but mostly likely those will be blends that include enough Semillion to account for that fundamental change. For varietally labelled Sauvignon Blanc we might be talking about limes, or peaches, melons, or passionfruit, but we generally are discussing the flavors of the wines in the context of a juicy, bright, modestly sized and utterly refreshing style.New Zealand of course has , to many, come to symbolize what Sauvignon is all about. Rich with grassy notes, grapefruit and pineapple flavors layered in under passionfruit and jalapenos, it is certainly a refreshing style of Sauvignon Blanc, but it is just one face of this subtly diverse variety. This modest tasting today contained wines from around the globe, though just a single example from New Zealand, and that from Hawke’s bay not the more famous region of Marlborough. Whether by design or not this omission helps to illustrate the range of Sauvignon Blanc we have at our disposal.
Today’s selection of wine, while modest, was certainly representative of that diversity and, somewhat surprisingly, the top pair of wines were both from South Africa, and both priced at the top of today’s price range. I sam a bit surprised not because the wines came from South Africa, I have been a long time proponent of South African wines and Sauvignon Blanc in particular, with their subtle blend of power and energy and their impressive array of flavors that ranges the gamut from herbal to mineral. The reason I was surprised was mostly due to the fact that it showed the consistency of my palate, which is always a bit surprising. We tend to enjoy novelty and change. things that stand out focus our attention and yet, these two wines simply were gorgeous and offered the best value of the tasting.
Therein lies the lesson here. South African Sauvignon Blanc is probably not high on many people’s list of Sauvies to seek out. Market force at work dictate that with less demand these wines will garner lower prices. It’s not that these wines are per se better $15 wines, rather it’s simply that these are $20 wines that have yet to find their audience. Take advantage of this disconnect my friends. These wines will not remain underpriced forever, but today they most certainly represent one of the great buying opportunities in the Sauvignon Blanc marketplace.
If the wines from South Africa are truly not your thing there are quite a few attractive wines that made today’s list. Each is worthy of your interest, and with the sun beginning to burn away each evening’s chilling blanket earlier each day we all know that something crisp, refreshing, and bright is destined to grace our table soon enough. Why not kick off the season with a nice Sauvy? There will be plenty of room down the road for wines that are more novel and perhaps even intellectual, like South African Chenin Blanc and Portuguese whites for example, but for these first summery days of spring there is no reason to forgo the familiar.
Complex aromas of wildflowers, cut grass, tangerine, fig, white pepper and melon slowly and subtly fill the glass. A moderately large scaled wine, there’s a terrific vein of acidity driving this across the palate. the flavors show early flashes of fig and melon before they are joined by subtle herbal element and a nice base of tangerine/tangelo tinged citrus notes. A nice mineral edge and fine green herbal notes emerge on the backend and lead to to a long, vibrant green fruited, chalky, and subtly herbal finish that shows both energy and power. Bing, bing, bing. I’m all over this. 91pts
Rather herbal and soil driven on the nose with chalky aromas complimenting the base of dried bay leaves and nettles framing delicate fig and kiwi fruit notes that pick up a hint of pear with air. Soft, broad and transparent in the mouth, this is tangy and tart. Transparent if a touch fat around the edges on the palate, there’s a lovely directness to the green tinged citrus flavors and a hint of something vaguely sweet trying to cover the vibrant acidity. A touch mineral on the backend with a burst of kiwi fruit appearing before this segues to a tight, slightly white peppery and pith pineapple toned finish. people are going to love this. I find it attractive but wish it had a touch more nervous focus on the palate. Still, I’d be happy to drink this. 90pts
A little candied on the nose, and ripe with peachy aromas layered over a base of softly floral framed citrus fruits and a hint of honeydew with a gentle suggestion of vanilla adding detail. Fairly large scaled in the mouth, and on the softer side of the spectrum, this does not lack for acid but does have a bit of a creamy feel in the mouth. The flavors show both complexity and subtlety with a vein of vanilla well woven through the fabric of citrus fruit, melon and very fine herbal notes with a hint of green fennel seed emerging on the backend. Soft and gentle on the finish, though with good persistence and a finale that shows some peach pit and a hint of almost salty minerality. This is not my style of Sauvignon Blanc but in its style it is quite good. 89pts
Soft and almost a bit creamy on the nose with fruit that hints at apples under dried herb and dried citrus peel; notes. Bright, juicy and rich in the mouth,this packs in a lot of voluptuous fruit that it lent realy height and energy by the fabulous acidity here. Tart to be sure, but also well balanced but rich green apple, citrus, and melon fruit this lacks much of the green character that typifies so much sauvignon Blanc produced to but replace it with luxurious fruit. The finish is tart, long and very direct, by no means a subtle of particularly complex wine this is all about electricly tangy fruit. Delicious, gulpable, and refreshing; it’s a party in a bottle. 88pts
Stinky with sulphur upon opening. Give this some air to allow for it to blow off and you’ll find fine aromas of green chilies, nettles, asparagus and chalky soil notes layered in with grapefruit rind and dried orange peel. Modestly scaled though with great snap on the palate, this unleashes bright, juicy citrus, tart nectarine and ripe pineapple flavors with great energy. It’s not a terribly complex wine but it does gain subtle bitter and herbal nuances on the backend before the great acids return on the long, juicy and refreshing grapefruit toned finish. 88pts
Sweet candied notes of lime greet the nose followed by hints of banana and white flowers. This is very focused in the mouth, strict and linear, and surprisingly so.It's got plenty of weight as well, but the flavors are nicely restrained with an edge of white peach framing a core of pithy citrus notes. A nice river stone mineral vein runs through adding detail and a spine on which to hang the fruit. The finish is a touch short but completely refreshing carrying on the understated fruit and mineral accents of the palate. Will be underwhelming for many but hits my sweet spot. 87pts
Intense aromas of green herbs, jalapeno, gooseberries and pineapple greet the nose. This has a lot of trapped CO2 so it comes off as a little sparkling at first, which is not at all attractive on a hot day with a well chilled bottle. The fruit here shows nice detail recalling the pineapple and lime from the nose with a touch of mango thrown in as well. Less herbaceous in the mouth than on the nose, the herbal components here are well covered right through the finish where the ad a flourish of complexity to the lingering tart fruit. Nice, fresh, and zesty. 87pts
Quite fruity and intense on the nose with aromas of grapefruit, gooseberry, mango, lavender, and a blade or two of grass. A bit soft on entry, this has a sweetness that expands on the palate countered by nicely bright acids. The flavors are fairly ripe and exotic with notes of mango accented by streaks of lemon and lime and a hint of papaya on the backend which gains a touch of pineapple peel astringency. A lime zest astringency lingers on the palate over the moderately long finish making this well suited for pairing with white fish or marinated shellfish. 86pts
Pretty intense on the nose with an interesting and atypical array of whey, white pepper, asparagus, kiwifruit and poblano chile. Driven by acids on entry, this seems fairly light weight in the mouth, though it gains body on the palate as the flavors of white peach, lime, a touch of canned asparagus, and melon unfold. This retains a certain peppery spice to it on the palate which is a bit unusual, though it shows nicely refreshing green fruit and pineapple notes on the moderately long finish which ends with some attractive clementine accent notes. 86pts
Reticent on the nose though instantly recognizable as Sauvignon Blanc with its hints of grass, pineapple, and fig. Noticeably sweet in the mouth, which is not what i am looking for, this is a fruit forward popularly styled wine and for those who prefer sweet wines this carries it’s sugar fairly well. There’s plenty of acid to balance the sweetness, and the flavors remain in the green fruited, slightly figgy and citrus toned end of the spectrum. For me this falls down on the finish, which does end up being noticeably and persistently sweet. A fruity wine with the character of Sauvignon Blanc but not quite the tension and verve the variety is known for. Still there is a market for this wine and this is a successful example in this style. 85pts
Floral on the nose in a very light wildflower kind of way with hints of lime leaf, citrus pith and creamy lees adding complexity along with a hint of sweet orchard fruit. languid on the palate. There’s acidity here but this this is one soft, broad, creamy sauvignon blanc, particularly when one considers the alcohol here. Fairly elegant with the sweetness of the wine accentuating the peachy character of the fruit. Surprisingly there’s very little herbal quality to this, instead one finds supple pineapple and orchard fruit that end with a bright, juicy, if modest finish. easy going, this should prove to be a real crowd pleaser. 85pts
Sweet peach, lemon verbena and asparagus greet the nose. Made in a fairly tart and lean style, this kicks off with a bright jab of acid that is quickly covered by the core of moderately rich and round fruit. Not particularly complex, this reveals subtle green citrus, grapefruit, and under-ripe melon flavors on the palate that lead to a pithy, refreshing, and modest finish. 84pts
Pithy and creamy on the nose there are hints of chrysanthemums as well as bee pollen notes that add detail to the faint peachy and pineapple aromas here. Bright, small scaled, and nicely mineral on entry. This is a modest wine, easy going and refreshing with oft flavors of grapefruit and gooseberries on the midpalate that lead to a modest, taut, refreshing finish. Very light and fresh. 83pts
Faint green herbal aromas greet the nose with suggestions of earthy dried lemon pith. Light and fresh in the mouth, this taste much better than it smells. It’s a modest wine but one that offers fresh and simple citrus fruit flavors that are clean and bright on the palate, turning slightly mineral and pith on the fairly long finish. Serviceable. 82pts
A little cheesy on the nose with ripe pineapple and tangerine aromas topped with a gentle floral note. Tart and simple in the mouth with a bit of a thick feel to the vaguely orange and mango flavors that show modest depth. The acidity adds a light lime note on the finish before this disappears quickly on the modest finish. Remarkably neutral. 80pts