Crisp, cool, light, lively, tart. Sounds like a pretty good wine for the sultry days of summer.
That would be sauvignon blanc.
Fans of this grape say that while it doesn’t always have the opulence of chardonnay, it goes better with food for that reason.
Chardonnay can overpower lighter foods. Sauvignon blanc is a more pleasing match for shellfish, mild finfish, shrimp, light chicken dishes, tuna salad, even potato salad and such.
Knowing this, many winemakers encourage that lean lightness by fermenting the sauvignon blanc grape long and cool in stainless steel tanks to retain its crisp acids and aging it in oak barrels too old to impart much richness to the wine.
Also, sauvignon blancs from New Zealand often have an additional refreshing flavor. Oddly, it’s known as “gooseberry” even by fans who have never been in the same room as a gooseberry. Still, they recognize and appreciate the flavor – tart, tangy green apples and white grapefruit.
But not every sauvignon blanc follows this pattern. Some winemakers go for richer, more complex flavors, using a couple of techniques. Some add the musque clone of sauvignon blanc, known for its powerful floral aromas, rich body and flavors of honey and tropical fruit. Others blend in a small proportion of the semillon grape, for its fuller body and richer flavors.
▪ 2013 Merry Edwards Sauvignon Blanc, Russian River Valley (53 percent sauvignon musque, 47 percent sauvignon blanc): aromas of tangerines, flavors of mangos, pink grapefruit; rich; $32.
▪ 2013 Galerie Wines “Equitem” Sauvignon Blanc, Knights Valley, Sonoma County (100 percent sauvignon blanc): cut grass aromas, crisp and lively, with flavors of lemons, grapefruit and minerals; $30.
▪ 2014 Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand (100 percent sauvignon blanc): aromas and flavors of apricots, gooseberries and tropical fruits, medium body; $20.
▪ 2014 Makara Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand (100 percent sauvignon blanc): flinty; flavors of tropical fruit, crisp, lively; $14.
▪ 2013 Steelhead Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, North Coast (100 percent sauvignon blanc): cut-grass aroma, flavors of lemons, limes and green apples, crisp; $13.