Spring into Spring – Top Ten Sauvignon Blancs
Popular opinion has it that summer is the proper season to sip Sauvignon Blanc. Many also believe in not wearing white after Labor Day. After witnessing copious quantities of white pants wearers on a recent trip out East, I have decided to do away with cliché and embrace my year-round love for Sauvignon Blanc. I especially love it in the spring, as all things wake from their dormancy and take a first breath of fresh air, fragrant with a promise of warmth and happiness.
Sauvignon Blanc originated in Bordeaux. It is considered, by many, to be a descendant of Savagnin. The varietal does well in many wine regions, world-wide. It has found a particularly welcome home in California and New Zealand. The flavor profile ranges from green and austere, to lush, sweet, and intensely fruity. It is often praised for its naturally high acidity and freshness, which bodes well for food friendliness. It is typically fermented in stainless steel or concrete. Generally, it is meant to be consumed early, although there are plenty of examples of barrel-aged offerings that are age-worthy.
Below are my top ten brands. Evenly split between California and New Zealand, they have become my faithful wine companions. Some are made in tiny quantities and are quite rare, others are widely available. All are worth seeking.
This stunning 300 case production wine is my obsession. With just a dash of Semillon, it’s aged in both French Oak and concrete, which gives it an opportunity to draw the best from both vessels. Clean, crisp, sexy, and extraordinarily complex, it boasts ripe tropical and stone fruit. It tastes like spring! It walks the fine line of bright acidity, minerality and plush opulence, with uncommon grace and style. The finish is a full minute. Drink it now or age it, if you have the stamina to wait.
Dogs resemble owners; wines, their winemakers. This is Russell Bevan in a glass. It’s bold, assertive and disarmingly engaging. A storm of tropical aromatics packed in a single whiff, give way to ripe stone fruit. Impeccably crafted, texturally superb, brilliantly balanced, and featuring a flamboyant forty-five second finish, it is a highly addictive proposition.
I can’t recall the time when I didn’t drink this wine. Masterfully made, each vintage seems to be slightly better than the last one. The vines, planted by Joe Rochioli, date back to 1960. It is as understated as it is profound. It is dynamic, delineated and delicious. The flavor spectrum takes the palate far and wide, from citrus and melon notes to exotic Asian pear and clotted cream. Bright, sparkling acidity beckons. The finish sneaks up on you, with no end in sight.
Made by winemaking master, Ed Sbragia, and his son Adam, the fruit is sourced from a vineyard planted in 1995. This Dry Creek Valley Sauvignon Blanc is wildly refreshing. Granny Smith apple, lemon blossom, comice pear aromas; along with just a hint of tomato stalk and kaffir lime, beautifully framed by solid minerality, that carry on to a playful finish.
This Sauvignon is an entirely different “animal, ” named after a 1870s French immigrant who settled in Livermore Valley. Louis brought Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon cuttings to Livermore from Chateau D’Yquem. The variety thrives in loamy southern Livermore soils which are similar in profile to Bordeaux. Soft, feminine, with a broad flavor spectrum that ranges from lightly grassy notes to the seductive exotic fruit. It delivers a lengthy, satisfying finish. A terrific value at just $15.
I fell in love with my first bottle of Allan Scott Sauvignon Blanc back in 2005. Ten years later, while visiting Marlborough, I fell in love with the personality behind the brand, Allan Scott. His uncompromising dedication to quality, terrific vineyard sites, and careful cellar work yield a wine of great varietal character and fantastic flavor profile, which feature citrus and passion fruit.
This estate makes several significant Sauvignon Blancs, including the magical “Chosen Rows” series. The bottling most widely available in the US is Brancott Estate, an outstanding value. Made by industry veteran, Patrick Materman, it is remarkably consistent. Every vintage and has quickly become a staple in my cellar. I love its “Marlborough-ness”, showcasing quintessential characteristics of the region. Think grapefruit, citrus, melon, stone fruit framed by bright, crisp acidity.
This decade old brand was established by two well-respected New Zealand wine industry veterans with four decades of combined experience working at Cloudy Bay. While in New Zealand, I spent some time with their young winemakers, Matt Sutherland and Murray Cook. Their philosophy was simple: maximum attention in the vineyard; low intervention in the cellar. My favorite thing about their Sauvignon Blancs is its silky, supple texture. Add exotic, ripe, pure fruits, plenty of bright citrus aromas and flavors, lovely minerality, and great balance, and you have a wine of enchanting quality.
Established in 1985, this winery is widely credited with introducing New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc to the U.S. Its winemaking team, led by Tim Heath, is wildly successful in crafting high quality wines that capture the region’s purity of flavor. Maritime influences, Wairau Valley cool climate, and prime vineyard sites insure wines of consummate elegance, refinement, and varietal integrity. Their wines are bright, boasting beautiful acidity, and balanced to a tee. You can read more about Cloudy Bay here.
This 11-year old brand has taken the wine world by storm. Featuring exceptional quality and unwavering consistency, they produce what is arguably the best New World Sauvignon Blanc. They’ve won more top awards than any winery I can recall. I drink as many of their wines as I can find, predominantly the Pioneer Block selections and Vicar’s Choice. Suffice it to say, if I had one Sauvignon Blanc to drink for the rest of my life, this would be it. You can read more on Saint Clair wines here.
Thirsty yet? Better spring to get yourself some Sauvignon Blanc! I know I am…