By Matt Mize
TYPICITY IS A fancy wine-tasting term that refers to the
traditional characteristics of
a given wine or grape variety.
However, in the case of sauvignon blanc, what one person considers traditional
may be radical to another.
With flavors ranging from lime, freshly
cut grass and green bell pepper to white peach
and ripe tropical fruit, sauvignon blanc can’t
be defined in simple terms. This varietal
shows how a good bottle of wine is an expression of the talent and mood of the winemaker,
in addition to the environment and materials
with which he or she has to work.
When it comes to sauvignon blanc, environment is one of the primary determining
factors in the aroma and flavor profile of the
finished wine. This grape traditionally thrives
in cool-climate regions known for producing
wines that lean toward the green, herbaceous
side of the spectrum.
Cool-climate sauvignon blanc also tends
to be higher in acid (think of the way your
mouth waters when you take a sip) and more
aromatic, with mineral and floral notes.
These wines from warmer climates put forth
more peach and grapefruit notes, have slightly
lower acidity and tend to be less aromatic.
Let’s take a quick tour of the better-known
growing regions for this grape.
Great examples from overseas
The Marlborough region of New Zealand
is famous for its sauvignon blanc, and its wines
have arguably become the yardstick by which
all other sauvignon blanc is measured. Three-
quarters of the vineyards in Marlborough are
planted with this one grape; the grapes benefit
from the area’s warm days, which enhance their
beautiful fruit and floral notes, and cool nights,
which help them to maintain their high acidity.
Typically these wines exhibit notes of bell pepper, gooseberry and passion fruit that are
rounded out with floral notes, stony minerality
and mouthwatering acidity.
For classic expressions of sauvignon
blanc, look no further than the Loire Valley in
northwest France and Bordeaux in the southwest. Sauvignon blancs from these areas, as in
much of the Old World, are named for the
regions in which they are made and not the
grape variety, so be on the lookout for wines
labeled as Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé (
pronounced pwee foo-may) from the Loire
Valley, or for Bordeaux Blanc from its namesake region.
Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé produce dry
wines that are characteristically medium- to
full-bodied and contain notes of lemon,
In Bordeaux, sauvignon blanc is most
often blended with Sémillon to produce
Bordeaux Blanc and Sauternes; however,
there are also single-varietal expressions from
this area. In the case of a dry Bordeaux Blanc,
sauvignon blanc is added to provide acidity
and fruity aromas to Sémillon, which tends to
be heavy and low in acid. Similarly, sauvignon
blanc is added to the wines of Sauternes to
add lifting acidity to an otherwise heavy,
Samples from California and Chile
California sauvignon blanc is different
from other sauvignon blanc in that it would
be difficult to pin one identity to it. From
grassy and herbal to fruity and rich, these
wines run the gamut of what is possible with
Napa Valley, while perhaps best known
for its cabernet sauvignon, also produces
great sauvignon blanc. Aromatic and rich in
fruit, with clean, bright acidity, these wines
are definite crowd pleasers. Fumé blanc is
another name for sauvignon blanc made in
California. These wines tend to be oak aged,
and thus pick up a smoky character from the
toasted oak barrels.
The Casablanca Valley region in Chile, a
cooler coastal area, is also producing nice
expressions of sauvignon blanc. These wines
are made from riper fruit and are thus more
fruit forward and higher in alcohol than their
counterparts from other areas of the world.
Personally, I can’t think of a wine better
suited for summer picnics or outdoor get-togethers than sauvignon blanc. In all of its
forms, sauvignon blanc can be incredibly
refreshing on a hot day. These wines pair
extraordinarily well with seafood, fresh salads
and herbs, which marry well with the natural
herbaceous elements of the wine. I encourage
you to check out some of the great expressions
of sauvignon blanc at your local Costco. C
Matt Mize is a buyer in Costco’s wine, spirits
and beer department.
The exciting flavors
of sauvignon blanc
You’ll ;nd these sauvignon blanc wines at select Costco locations:
FEATURED AT COSTCO
Stag’s Leap Sauvignon Blanc,
Napa Valley, California
Château de Thauvenay Sauvignon Blanc,
Sancerre, Loire, France
Kirkland Signature™ Ti Point Sauvignon
Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand
Tabali Reserva Sauvignon Blanc,
Limari Valley, Chile