Summer with Sauvignon Blanc
Dynamic grape offers kaleidoscope of flavors and styles and perfect summertime sipping.
It's summertime and the livin' is easy – and the drinking should be too! As the seasons change, so do our palates, and just like shedding the turtlenecks and sweaters of past months for swimsuits and seersucker, our taste buds turn from heavy, rich white wines in search of something fresher, brighter, and more focused on pleasure rather than serious contemplation. So step aside Condrieu, see you on the ski slopes Corton-Charlemagne – it's time to bask in the sun with our good friend Sauvignon Blanc and all its blissful interpretations.
Sauvignon Blanc is one of the most adaptive, versatile grapes on the planet. But if you're looking for its grandest interpretation, then all paths lead to the chalk-chiseled cellars of Sancerre. This jewel of the Loire, with its cool climate and mineral-laced Silex soils, showcases the grape's virtues in a most regal way. The finest examples are subtle, elegant, concentrated wines that impress you with complexities of minerals and herbs, not voluptuous ripe fruit. We love the wines of Philippe Auchère, among other producers, precisely because of their ability to capture this elusive quality – delicate yet intense, ethereal yet rich. If you're seeking a rounder, more masculine example of the grape, set out south on a trip to Pessac-Leognan and Graves to experience oily, age-worthy Bordeaux Blanc. Often blended out with Semillon, these rich, curvy wines carry a deeper, fuller expression of fruit than what you normally find with Sauvignon Blanc, but the top wines still retain the vibrancy to keep the flavors fresh and enticing. And they age beautifully – drinking a pristine 20 year old white Bordeaux is one of those rare, cherished experiences where you still dream of the multidimensional layers of aroma and flavor years after the fact.
A lesser-known example to consider from the Old World that has industry insiders abuzz is IGT Sauvignon Blanc from Umbria. (It seems the Italians are never satisfied to work only with their own indigenous grapes.) Exotic and enthralling, the finest examples capture the cavalier spirit of Italian winemaking that brought the Bolgheri coast fame in the 1980s with the Super Tuscan revolution. Umbria's warm climate brings out heightened levels of fruity concentration in the grape, but still leaves you with plenty of spine-tingling acidity and minerality. Don't be surprised if the top examples start a wine revolution of their own!
Turning our attention to the New World, Sauvignon Blanc offers a cornucopia of tropical flavors that make you wonder if we're still dealing with the same grape. It seems every producer in California sees the grape through a different lens, incorporating different winemaking techniques to make everything from briny, bright Loire-inspired wines to richer, bombastic versions that are oak-infused and pulsing with exotic flavors. New Zealand's entire wine industry is founded on their achievements with the grape. Almost exclusively aged in stainless steel to preserve the varietal's freshness, these Kiwi wines are long on bright, pungent aromas and riveting citric flavors that cross the palate with electric intensity.
No matter what your preference in white wine, Sauvignon Blanc has you covered. Don't miss the chance to reacquaint yourself with the many styles of this versatile grape during these toasty summer days!