And here I cheat a little, including DeLille’s Blanc even though it is about a quarter Semillon, if not more. So why include it here? Simply put, it’s one of the great white wines of the U.S., and I doubt I’ll have a better place to crow about it.
This is a classic white Bordeaux-styled wine, if in a rather powerful vein with a fine core of Semillon fruit, wrapped in a ripe blanket of Sauvignon Blanc and all knit together with judicious use of barrel ageing. It’s a detailed wine that is rich yet remarkably balanced and capable of improving for years in the cellar. Every bottle reveals new detail and food pairing opportunities. It’s a wine everyone should try.
Photo courtesy of slgwv via Flickr/cc
Cantina Terlan Sauvignon Blanc Terlano Quarz Alto Adige Italy $55
My love for Italian wine is well known, so it is something of an embarrassment to have to say that one of Italy’s great white wines is made with a ‘foreign’ grape! Of course these foreigners have a long history in many regions of Italy and the Alto Adige is one of them, adapting many French varietals to its varied hillside well over a century ago.
With so much time to learn from mistakes, it’s surprising that more of these wines do not receive greater recognition, but the difficult terrain ensures that the labor required to produce these wines and the associated costs of the wine itself keeps the market for these wines quite small. In this case, that is a shame.
Cantina Terlano/Kellerei Terlan is particularly well known for its white wines and the Quarz just might be its finest. Stunningly pure and piercing in nature, it’s a tour de force Sauvignon Blanc packed with juicy ripe fruit supported by bold minerality that allows this Sauvignon Blanc to improve in the cellar.
François Cotat Sancerre La Grande Côte Chavignol France $55
There are few regions as closely associated with Sauvignon Blanc as Sancerre, though in general when one thinks of Sancerre one thinks of a bright, fresh, chalk-laden style of wine that delivers a refreshing citrussy mouthful of fruit. Cotat La Grande Côte is cut from an entirely different cloth.
Coming from the coolest of Cotat’s sites, this is in effect a late harvest wine. It packs incredible richness and full blown peach, melon and nuanced exotic fruit flavors on its imposing frame. Even though this is a powerful and large scaled wine, it also embodies the elegance and finesse of Sancerre, as all of Cotat’s wines do.
Robert Mondavi Winery Fumé Blanc To-Kalon I Block Napa Valley, CA $75
In a way it is fitting that Robert Mondavi Fume Blanc makes this top 10 list, after all it was the first wine bottled by the man that was to become one of the last century’s iconic figures in wine.
This, however, is not the wine that Robert Mondavi put in bottling in 1966, though it does carry on that lineage. Back then, Mondavi set out to show the wine drinking public how fine Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc could be if made in the classic Loire Valley style. Today their I-Block bottling serves as a benchmark for the heights the variety can achieve when small yields and enlightened winemaking is used. This is just delicious wine, more orange-toned than many, retaining refreshing acidity and yet offering a rich, slightly creamy and impeccably well balanced drinking experience.
Didier Dagueneau Pouilly-Fumé Buisson Renard $100
Didier Dagueneau was a legendary figure in the Loire Valley for the remarkable sets of Sauvignon Blanc that are leased each year. Since his untimely passing in 2009, his son Benjamin has been in charge of the estate and he has been able to fill his father’s very large shoes.
These are iconic wines. In truth, I would have preferred to include Dagueneau’s Silex bottling here, but its price (about $135) has pushed it well beyond the means of most people. This single vineyard Buisson Renard bottling is terribly expensive as well, but it it is worth trying. It fills the mouth with fruit and herbal elements that lean to the exotic, all grounded by Pouilly-Fumé’s legendary flinty character and a finely balanced richness that carries the finish on and on.