The Lower Brancott Valley in New Zealand, home to Greywacke winery.
Source: Kevin Judd, Greywacke
Source: Courtesy La Playa Winery
James Selby has directed wine programs in New York, Portland, and Santa Fe, where he lives and works as a wine consultant and writer.
by James Selby
Where the Wild Wines Are
The name derives from sauvage, “wild,” and could well describe Sauvignon Blanc’s tart, grassy profile and invigorating snap. Whether from Europe or throughout the world, this diverse grape is expressive of the spot of earth where it’s rooted.
Sauvignon Blanc originated in France, and vintners plant these delectable grapes in the moderate climate, coastal estuaries of Bordeaux, producing dry, ample wines with melon and tropical notes. Predicated by quality, Bordeaux whites are available in a range of prices.
Some of the greatest Sauvignon Blanc in the world comes from the inland river valley of the Loire, most famously, Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé. Vivid aromas of gunflint, herbs, wet leaves followed by a lode of minerality, ginger and spiced baked apple flavors are supported by a backbone of acidity. Less tres cher but very satisfying Sauvignon Blanc comes from Touraine, their Loire neighbor to the west.
Hugely popular, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is intensely exotic and, like cilantro, either you love it or not. The reason: its characteristic robust whiff of gooseberry and grapefruit. Always vibrant, there’s an untamed clarity and taut focus in these wines from the “land of the long white cloud.” Chile, with its history of winemaking dating to the 16th century, is a wellspring of distinction and value. Within this vanilla bean shaped country, the close embrace of sea and mountains, its soils and climate only serve to enhance the vineyards. Their Sauvignon Blanc unites brightness of lemon-lime with smoke and stone, providing full-throttled freshness.
Sauvignon Blanc is the fourth most planted grape in California where its geographical breadth allows for vastly different interpretations, whether round, ripe fruited in warmer regions (Napa Valley, Russian River), or the tangy, laser intensity of cooler coastal areas (Santa Barbara County, Mendocino).
All around, Sauvignon Blanc is easy to like and wildly pleasurable. And the perfect addition to any summertime dinner table.
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