Top Value Sauvignon Blanc

The last refuge of affordably typicity?

There aren’t many wines out there where you can score a great example for around $12. Sure there is a lot of inexpensive wine, and some of it is good, but does it speak to you about varietal character? I’m not going to delve into terroir here because frankly that’s a lot to ask of a $12 wine but is it too much to ask your wine to taste like the grapes that were used to make it?

In some case yes it is. It’s simply too difficult to grow great Pinot Noir or Nebbiolo and get it in the bottle for $12 but Sauvignon Blanc on the other hand may very well still be the greatest value wine there is. Simply put the character of Sauvignon Blanc, grassy, citrussy, aromatic, focused and crisp is, for a number of reasons, easy to capture even when growers push their yields up and plant Sauvignon Blanc in less than the perfect place. One of the reasons for this is simply the fact that many of the traits we tend to look for in Sauvignon Blanc, that crisp acidity, bright flavors, and even the grassy, peppery aromatic component that can make certain Sauvignon Blancs a love it or hate it proposition tend to be significantly developed even when the grapes are less than perfectly, or physiologically ripe. That allows you to plant Sauvignon Blanc in cooler spots, or crop it relatively heavily and still be able to produce a wine that is not only recognizably sauvignon Blanc, but Sauvignon Blanc in a style that many people adore!

So let’s dive in to the value end of the Sauvignon Blanc pool this week. I’m going to follow up next week with some premium offerings and it will be interesting to see if they are in fact worth the uptick in pricing. Wines like the Cono Sur Bicicleta, Fire Road, and the Waterbrook make a strong argument for the wines at this price point, though they did stand out in this crowd which also featured more than its fair share of duds. Interestingly these three wines come from various regions around the globe, adding further evidence to the idea that stand out Sauvignon Blanc can be made just about anywhere.

2012 Cono Sur Bicicleta Sauvignon Blanc Valle Central Chile 12.5% $9

Showing a nice balance of herbal and fruity aromas with balanced notes of tarragon, fennel, lime and green apple topped with a hint of passionfruit. In the mouth this is smooth and polished with good acidity adding some lift to the pineapple and almost tangerine flavors that are framed with some subtle green vegetal notes but it really shines on the finish which pops with zesty lemon rind flavors with underlying hints of peach and a lingering minerality. This is a great value. 87pts
2012 Fire Road Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough NZ 13% $12

Aromatic with plenty of roasted chili notes that are well integrated into some citrus and pineapple aromas though this does pick up some cooked pea aromas with air. Bright and vibrant on entry, this offers real cut on the palate with lovely lemon, pineapple and grapefruit flavors that show a bit of that vegetal aspect on the backend and through the moderately long finish where it becomes more apparent but never rises above the fine, juicy citrus flavors. Not going to blow anyone’s mind but this is fairly classic NZ Sauvy. 87pts
2012 Waterbrook Sauvignon Blanc Columbia Valley Washington  13.7% $12

Very pretty and very floral on the nose with a base of lemon oil and peach topped by notes of chamomile, fennel pollen and mint. Round and rather mouth filling, this is a bit on the voluptuous side yet retains fine acidity keeping things lively and fresh. the mid-palate shows a bit of creaminess and the flavors of pineapple and kiwi are a bit subdued, gaining a nice peachy tone on the backend and through the snappy and moderately long finish. This lacks a bit of verve in the mouth but is well made in a very popular style. 87pts

2012 Hacienda Araucano Reserva Sauvignon Blanc Valle de Lolol Chile 13% $12

A bit smoky and dense on the nose with some compact dry grass and soft white peach and grapefruit pith aromas along with a dusty top note. This is lovely in the mouth, bright and firm and focused with tension in the mouth and juicy flavors of citrus and sweet apple that extend across the fairly long mineral and tart finish. perhaps leaner and less overtly fruity than many options at this price point, this is a great option for those looking for more acid and some restraint in the Sauvy. 86pts
2011 Tin Roof Sauvignon Blanc California 13.5% $10

A bit earthy and polleny on the restrained nose with a soft melony sweetness and a bit of fig enlivened with hints of lemon oil and cut grass. A bit soft on the palate this is broad and fairly transparent with a nice mineral edge. Like the nose this is a bit understated in the mouth but it does show nice crisp fruit with hints of melon and grapefruit finish with moderate length and a nice refreshing hint of astringency. 85pts

2012 Fish House Sauvignon Blanc Columbia Valley Washington 13% $11

Creamy on the nose with almost a hint of banana early on followed by lime, sage and slight basil stem aromas. A touch sweet on entry, this is round and fairly plush in the mouth though there is plenty of juicy acidity to keep the lime, peach and creamy apple flavors bright and mouthwatering. The finish shows a bit of lingering sweet lime flavors fairly well balanced by the acids. Easy drinking style. 84pts

2011 Pepi Sauvignon Blanc California 13% $11

Showing a touch of restraint on the nose this none the less present a classic Sauvignon Blanc array of lightly herbaceous , green tea laced pineapple, grapefruit and gooseberry aromas. Just a touch softer than I’d prefer in the mouth, this leads off on the palate with some sweet lemon notes, pink grapefruit and oddly enough a background suggestion of coriander that lends this a hint of a cola tone in the mouth that persists through the moderately long, lime toned finish featuring a nice pop of sweet grapefruit on the finale. This is easy to enjoy. 84pts

2012 Yealands Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough NZ 13% $13

Intense gooseberry and asparagus aromas greet the nose followed by notes of roasted chilies and very ripe pineapple. This is clean and fresh in the mouth with a lovely texture but the asparagus aromas are going to be off putting to many. Not terribly fruit driven, there are some nice green apple and over-ripe pineapple flavors on the mid palate and a fine mineral underlay on the fairly long finish with hints of greengage plums but the signature mark here is asparagus. I like the texture and freshness, and would recommend this if you’re serving asparagus but other wise be forewarned. 84pts

2012 Line 39 Sauvignon Blanc Lake County 13.5% $9

Quite ripe on the nose with peachy aromas topped with hints of flowers and orange gel candies and maybe even a hint of blackcurrant. This is smooth and polished in the mouth, with a nice base of fruit flavors built on the peach and candied citrus notes also found on the nose. In spite of  sufficient acidity to keep this lively the finish gets a heavy and dull with a bit of a sweet, tacky feel.  An easy going party wine. 83pts
2011 Greystone Cellars Sauvignon Blanc California 13.5% $11

This smells weird, a bit nutty and with notes of under cooked pie crust and soggy lemon meringue pie. Tart and simple in the mouth with a pleasant streak of lemony fruit with a subtle herbaceous accent note presented in a clean, fairly rich style that suffers from a short, hard and slightly drying finish.  There’s nothing off here other than the weird nose but at the same time there’s not much here anyway. 78pts

2012 Parducci Sauvignon Blanc Mendocino County 13.5% $12

Fruity and slightly herbal on the nose with a bit of PEZ like character to the candied apple and berry fruit aromas.  A bit soft on entry, this doesn’t delivery the fruitiness that the nose promises, though there is an underlying almost red berry PEZ like flavor on the palate topped with a hard, steely edge that dominates the modest, herb tinged finish. Simple and lean. 78pts

Top Value Sauvignon Blanc Tasted August 2013

Cono Sur Bicicleta Sauvignon Blanc Central Valley (2012)
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Fire Road Sauvignon Blanc (2012)
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Waterbrook Sauvignon Blanc (2012)
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Araucano Reserva Sauvignon Blanc Chile (2012)
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Tin Roof Cellars Sauvignon Blanc North Coast (2011)
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House Wine Fish House Sauvignon Blanc (2012)
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Pepi Sauvignon Blanc (2011)
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Yealands Estate Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough (2012)
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Line 39 Sauvignon Blanc (2012)
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Mentioned in this article


  • Kim Crawford and WhiteHaven are my favorites! I can usually find them for about $13-17 a bottle, depending on where I buy the and if they're having a sale. Great 90pt wines under $20!

    Aug 27, 2013 at 3:09 PM

  • Add Spy Valley to Kim Crawford and Whitehaven

    Aug 27, 2013 at 3:27 PM

  • I'd like to add Iverson Winery's (Fair Play, CA) Sauvignon Blanc. . .Though $22 "over the counter" ($17 to Club members) . . .It certainly deserves to be included in any "best inexpensive" list. . .And, since we're discussing the "flavours" of SB, it behooves one to check out Iverson's Chardonnay. . .Which I kid the winemakers that it is MORE like a Sauvignon Blanc than a Chardonnay. . .Nothing "buttery" about this fine example of El Dorado County's capabilities as a wine-growing region.

    Aug 27, 2013 at 3:42 PM

  • Snooth User: winedaddy
    1203186 29

    Its hard to imagine how not one wine from the Loire Valley is even mentioned. There are so many between $10 and $20 that Express this grape as well or better than any other region in the world.

    Aug 27, 2013 at 5:28 PM

  • Snooth User: Jamie Bothen
    1138350 107

    I have had a lot of CA & south american ones and now stick to the New Zealand ones- they are so much crisper and cleaner, south american ones taste much "muddier"- that is not definable as sauvignon blanc

    Aug 27, 2013 at 8:07 PM

  • Agree that the New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs are superb, but I like Chilean LaPlaya because it is good and half the cost.

    Aug 29, 2013 at 6:34 PM

  • Dry Creek Vineyard has an excellent Sauvignon Blanc, only $16

    Sep 03, 2013 at 6:19 PM

  • Snooth User: Stallion
    Hand of Snooth
    381013 857

    I would also add Rodney Strong's Charlotte's Home Sav Blanc to this list. Nice wine at a great value of around $12 a bottle. Wonderful zest on the finish!

    Sep 12, 2013 at 12:26 AM

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