Sipping sassy... Sauvignon Blanc

Like so many wine grapes, Sauvignon Blanc originated in France. In Bordeaux it is blended with Semillon routinely to make Bordeaux Blanc.

Unblended, in the Loire Valley it still produces racy Pouilly-Fumés and Sancerres – starting around $30. Both of these bright and bracingly zingy French white wines have become difficult to find as more affordable Sauvignon Blancs became available from New World wineries.

Here in British Columbia, our winemakers tend to make fruitier more aperitif-styled white wines from Sauvignon Blanc – less zip and zingy acidity, with a medley of light and well-balanced fruit flavours. They can be fabulous summer sippers out on the deck or patio.

Tough to beat the affordability of Ganton & Larsen Prospect Winery Council’s Punch Bowl Sauvignon Blanc (40305) $7.99 – marked down $5!  The grapes were grown in the Oliver and Osoyoos areas of the south Okanagan Valley. Peaches and candied lemon-rind slide into melon and mango before finishing with a twist of lime. None of that wild grassy, gooseberry stuff in this civilized white wine!

That fruit-driven tropical style of Sauvignon Blanc is common in New World wines. Add a little oak aging and you have Fume Blanc, pioneered by Robert Mondavi in California. The tart, acidic style of bright citric flavours over chalk and west rocks is more common in French Sauvignon Blancs from the Loire Valley.

From Moreson Family Winery in South Africa’s Franschhoek region Miss Molly ‘Kitchen Thief’ Sauvignon Blanc (522045) $17.95 has more in common with a French white from the Loire Valley than it does with any zippy and zingy Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. More dry than fruity, it opens with green apple over traces of tropical fruits - lime and pineapple. This is a surprisingly full bodied white wine!

The asparagus, gooseberry and grassy green pepper flavours commonly associated with New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc are attributed to compounds known as methoxypyrazines that become more pronounced and concentrated in wines from cooler climate regions.

From New Zealand’s famed Marlborough region Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc (100594) $17.79 offers up a bouquet of ripe gooseberries supported by understated grassy, herbal aromas and tropical fruit. Rich and almost sweet on first sip, it moves through nectarine and kiwi fruit flavours before finishing bright and crisp with subtle notes of peas and asparagus.

Reputed to be one parent – with Cabernet Franc – of the far more famous Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc has travelled as far as it’s celebrated child and been as well received in most New World regions. North and South America both make fine Sauvignon Blancs.

Better known for big earthy reds with quirky names – Two Hoots, Madcap Red, The Wrath, The Bear – that have Cabernet Franc as their backbone, Fairview Cellars and its vineyards are located off the Old Golf Course Road, west of Oliver in the irrigated desert of the South Okanagan Valley.

Borrowing a trick from Bordeaux, Bill Eggert blended Semillon into his Fairview Cellars 2016 Sauvignon Blanc (30037) $21.99 and one-third of

the juice was barrel-fermented in new French Oak, on the creamy lees, for 3 months. Cool nights and careful picking ensure the grapes retain their bright acidity.  Lemon, lime and green apple notes slide into spicy mandarin orange.  Its easy to imagine notes of desert sage in the finish.

The vineyards of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé in France’s upper Loire Valley are a hodge-podge of soils that produce subtly different white wines from Sauvignon Blanc. What these wines invariably share is a bone dry, rapier clean edge of bright natural acidity.

Grown of the steep Kimmeridgian marl slopes of Monts Damnés, Henri Bourgeois’ La Côte des Mont Damnés Sancerre 2014 (227934) $43.99 flaunts delicate aromas of lemon, apple and pear that carry through into the flavours on first sip.  Underneath the vibrant gooseberry fruity acidity there’s a vein of almost salty minerality with evanescent echoes of thyme. A very fine Sancerre!

Whether you prefer the lush and tropically fruited styles of most New World Sauvignon Blancs or the thrillingly brightly acidic wines that sometimes surprise us from South Africa and France’s Loire River valley… these wines are made for food!

Save the fruit bombs for pairing with rich creamy chicken and pork dishes! Seek out a Loire white from Sancerre or Pouilly-Fumé for serving with white-fleshed fish or oysters!  Bon appetit!

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