David’s article as prepared for the Duluth News Tribune for the article which ran on 5/27/2015:
Learn the Varietal: Sauvignon Blanc
When people first taste sauvignon blanc, the most common reaction is a puckered face, followed by a down turned mouth which quickly leads to an expression of disgust. When I serve this wine in my beginner classes most of the students are not pleased. Comments like, “oh that was so dry”, and “why would anyone drink that,” are usually followed by a small voice from the back saying something like, “mmmmm, hello summer.” Once I hear that then I know I’ve found a kindred spirit and an ally in convincing the rest of the class of the benefits of refreshingly tart sauvignon blanc.
Sauvignon Blanc is a pale yellow, sometimes greenish, dry white wine. It can smell like grapefruit, lemons, limes, fresh cut grass, and melon. When served properly chilled it tastes light, tart and refreshing. It is high in acid and low in sugar. Actually I’d call it dry, dry, dry, only because I reserve the term “bone dry” for a different, more dry, wine. This dryness is the most off-putting initial aspect to the uninitiated.
But this dryness has real purpose. Sauvignon Blanc “grew up” in France’s Loire river valley. Most likely in the upper reaches of the valley around the small communes of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé. These two regions also produce a wide variety of moldy, hairy, scary looking goat cheeses which they call a “Crottin.” The exact translation of this is a bit muddied but most people agree that it means goat droppings, or goat dung.
This cheese, also known simply as Chèvre, is tangy, a bit dry in the mouth, can have a strong flavor and it is creamy and soft. It tastes great in salads, on crackers, slices of French bread, or spread on fresh fruit. But the cheese is sticky. It’s sticky in your mouth and coats the tongue. This is where sauvignon blanc with its intense acidity comes to the rescue. One sip from the glass and the cheese is scrubbed from the palate.
In summary, I’m encouraging you to eat and drink super dry acidic white wine that most people recoil from and to pair it with hairy, moldy “goat turds” on a cracker. You can see why I need an ally. But the truth is that this wine with its versatility and acidity is perfect to pair with dishes which are high fat or oily and yet are not bold enough for a red wine with its associated tannins. Served cold, sauvignon blanc is also refreshing when consumed on a warm summer day. This isn’t a wine for the beginner – it takes a bit to get used to its tart dry flavor – but once you learn how to use it, I guarantee that each time your drink it, it will remind you of the warmth and aromas of summer.
Many countries make sauvignon blanc. In France it is called a Sancerre or a Pouilly-Fumé. Good examples of these will cost $20 to $30 and should have a more herbaceous aroma rather than citrus. California sauvignon blanc costs $12 to $25 and have more fruit based aromas with grapefruit being the signature smell. New Zealand sauvignon blanc is famous the world over and is well priced at $12 to $18 a bottle. These wines are particularly fruity and tart. Chile produces a sauvignon blanc for around $8 to $15 a bottle. Be cautious of any of the wines at a lower price point as these can be disappointingly bland and tart.
All sauvignon blanc wines are ready to drink the moment they hit the bottle. This wine does not benefit from aging. Chill it well but remember that when a wine is too cold it will taste more tart and crisp. If fully refrigerated, let it warm up a bit before drinking. Pair it with salad, pasta, fish, cheese, fresh fruit, and time spent on the deck this summer.
David Devere is a certified specialist of wine. He teaches wine classes mainly in the Duluth, MN area. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.