Old World vs. New World: Sauvignon Blanc

There are many genres of Sauvignon Blanc people. There are the people who don’t particularly fancy wine and look to Sauvignon Blanc as something reliable and easy to understand. There are the Sancerre snobs, who I fear some wine professionals (myself not included) think of as Sancerre simpletons. Why? Because these days the value for price of Sancerre sucks. Then there are the White Bordeaux evangelists. And lastly, there is Sarah Jessica Parker there with a glass her New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc . Oh, and then there is me. Who unapologetically sometimes refers to it as Savvy B, but only when I am in the midst of what I’ve coined Basic B*#@h wine phases. I become a Savvy B Basic B. Where I seek it like a thirsty herbivore craving its grassy nature in all its glory. I also have phases where it downright repels me. Perhaps because I’ve tasted a few too many with overt asparagus/tinned vegetable notes, or as the French call it, pipi de chat. Look it up. But well-made Sauvignon Blanc can be glorious and all the feral feline aromas actually play nicely with flowers and citrus and pineapple. I have to say, Sauvignon Blanc is a bit promiscuous, and full of unexpected kink. Is it into stainless steel? Why yes it is! Is it comfortable with oak? Sometimes a little too comfortable, if you get my drift. It also couples with Semillon , and they dabble in botrytis-play. That’s the secret to Sauternes , babyyyy. Sauvignon Blanc is a part of it. Oh, and did it have a fling with Cabernet Franc to create the crossing Cabernet Sauvignon ? It sure did. The custody battle rages. Albeit Cabernet Franc is likely winning seeing as it hangs out with Cabernet Sauvignon in the barrel and bottle. So, from the Loire Valley to Bordeaux, New Zealand to Chile to California, let’s explore Sauvignon Blanc. Shower wine pick at the end. Onwards! ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ LOIRE I won’t lie. Historically, I have been a nut for the Loire. Sancerre was one of the first quality wines of the region that turned my head. Me and a billion other people. Now I feel like it barely tastes like Sauvignon Blanc, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like it. This region is all about that sweet sweet silex soil. There are also soils with fun names like Les Caillotes (Oxfordian limestone!), terres blanche (Kimmeridgian marl!), but good Loire Sauvignon Blanc can also be found in some other Loire sub-regions too! Let us explore. 2018 Samuel Baron Touraine Sauvignon Blanc Ooooh refreshment! The acidity is one of my favorite Sauvignon Blanc qualities I count on, and this doesn’t disappoint. This wine tastes like springtime, and I envision hunting for Easter eggs while drinking it. At dawn. In the dew. 2018 Patient Cottat Anciennes Vignes Sancerre Ever so ripe a Sancerre! As they seem to be these days. Very full of stone fruit and just hinting at a smidge of grass littered with flowers. The acid gives a good bite, but this wine is full figured. It is a contrast I delight in. 2017 Domaine du Bouchot Pouilly Fume This winery is that of the Kerbiquet family, and this wine used to be called “Regain”. They also make a standard Pouilly-Fume I find enchanting. Possibly my most favoritest in the whole widest worldeth. White peaches and mild greens. Flowers and fun. I don’t want to say too much just try it. BORDEAUX Here you are going to find a lot more blended Sauvignon Blanc, and oak usage is common albeit my favorites don’t make that the main attraction. But I feel like there is a white Bordeaux revival looming. 2019 Châteaux La Gravière Entre-Deux-Mers Citrus and vanilla and a punch of oak, as they often do in Bordeaux. Quite good quality for price to boot. Found it at Whole Foods, and I’d do it again. 2016 Chateau Marjosse This is one of the ever-prolific Lurton family’s wines, and it rocks. Actually it is more of a waltz, elegant and choreographed, skipping across our tongue with joy. Minerally and laced with honeysuckle. It has a decent dose of Semillon and some Muscadelle, so perhaps it isn’t the most pure representation of Sauvignon Blanc, but it is a delicious one. NEW ZEALAND If there is one grape we associate with New Zealand, it is Sauvignon Blanc. And why not? Theirs is unique, pungent and makes no apologies. 2019 Smith and Sheth ‘CRU’ Wairau Valley Sauvignon Blanc Wairau Valley is a sub-region of Marlborough and is cool with a high diurnal range—those vines get good and warm by day and cool their heels at night; this all leads to really ripe fruit without losing acid. Fascinating nose. It twirls and leaps into your nose then switches to an adage, more legato. Goodly acid, almost the sensation of effervescence but with a satin coat weight to it. Fresh cut flowers and citrus fruit moving into gooseberry and mango. You start to get a hint of lychee even. But a mineral current cuts through. Quite fab, as all the Smith & Sheth wines I’ve had have been! 2019 Whitehaven Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc It’s textbook but like, good. Balanced. You get all the grass in the world but it doesn’t punch you in the nose the way some do. Not as much gooseberry, more of a…is that lemon balm? Tis. And white grapefruit. And possibly some white pepper. Very silky. Quaffable enough to sip alone, but complex enough to resist chugging. 2018 Pyramid Valley Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc Fascinating! But give the lady some air. The pressure of being cooped up in screw cap needs a minute. Let her blow off some steam then watch as she shows more and more sides of herself. She has the humor of pipi de chat and the depth of fermenting citrus coupled with the zing of open-minded streams running free. She is every woman and will keep surprising you so keep drinking. This is single vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, from Sam and Mandy Weavers’ Churton Vineyard in Waihopai Valley. Zingy and rich. Not a typical NZ offering methinks. It has a unique something to it. A true biodynamic beauty. CALIFORNIA Ah, my adopted homestate! We do a lot with Sauvignon Blanc here, including sometimes calling it Fumé Blanc and putting it in oak. Which is funny because in Pouilly Fumé, the Loire region I am assuming that name came from, oak is not the common thing. Ah well, it’s California. We do we. 2019 Justin Sauvignon Blanc Really enjoyed, would recommend! It’s a Paso Robles delight full of grapefruit and seashells. Citrus and greens too with balanced acid. No oak here. Zippy, bright, a chatterbox you’d love to have drinks with. Until you realize you are in fact drinking your drinking buddy. But then you remember you shouldn’t be having a conversation with a wine bottle anyway and pour another glass. 2017 Grgich Hills Estate Napa Valley Fumé Blanc The, oh, subtitle of this wine is “Dry Sauvignon Blanc”…is there a sweet one? Zippy af with an underlying luxury oily nature. Like that witty sarcastic soul who at the end of the day looks you in the eye, puts their hand on your shoulder (only if they sense it is not unwanted) and asks how you’ve been doing. Very acid, very mineral, a bit reduced upon opening. But then comes a softness. Reading up on the winemaking, I am guessing that is the time this spent on lees, not oak. That soft lactic latent nature is that hand on your shoulder. Warm and welcoming. But then the grassy herbs hit again. That person is back to business, but you know you are welcome to email them with your request. 2018 Honig Rutherford Reserve Sauvignon Blanc What a treat. WHAT A TREAT. Very layered. Very much evolves. Very much made by a woman winemaker which warms my soul. So, you get the oak on this. But it blends and melds and dances with all sorts of citrus but TART citrus. Bordering on citrus pith. And then dairy notes. Vanilla whipped cream or infused crème fraiche. What a fun wine. I liken it to a key lime pie in a butter crust topped with vanilla whip but…it is not sweet. Just fun. CHILE I have to confess I haven’t had a ton of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, but I am getting into them! You should too. 2018 Lapostolle Casa Grand Selection Sauvignon Blanc This Sauvignon Blanc is from Rapel, who’d have thunk it! I normally think of that region as being Cabernet territory but given that in France Sauvignon Blanc is grown near Cabernet, I guess that adds up. Founded in Apalta (a subregion of Colchagua which is a subregion of Rapel), Lapostolle apparently owns land in Casablanca too, but I’d think that it would state that was part of the wine if it were. The winery was created by a French couple. Is it cheating to like it and still count as a Chilean endeavor? Methinks not. This ever so golden treat has 15% Sauvignon Gris. Lovely minerality, flowers, hints of grassiness I think is reduction, sweet orange, herbs and four-leaf clover (if we are lucky) all play a part. It rather makes me think of modern Sancerre. I envision being on the lawn making a daisy chain. Cause I grew up when the yard itself was entertainment. As an adult, all I need is a glass of this. Maybe two. 2019 Matetic EQ Coastal Sauvignon Blanc My but that is pungeant! This one comes from Casablanca, close to the coast and cooler. And the acid and underripe citrus confirm this. Then I get asparagus and all sorts of peppery greens like chervil. Haven’t had that in a minute, but I think that’s what I get. A nice wet stone or two tossed in. Maybe one of the “whiskey stones” you can keep in the freezer. Really good and keeps me coming back. I don’t think I’m gonna like it then…I do. Oh! Oh joyous wine. CONCLUSION Oddly, seeing as stylistically they are probably the most different, I am torn between New Zealand and the Loire as my favorites. New Zealand screams that it is Sauvignon Blanc and what a character! Loire feels more recherché. And god I love it. I want to declare a tie. I allllmost feel like pitting the two against each other is like apples and oranges. Can I have two favorites? I am not torn on what my shower wine would be, however. That is the Domaine du Bouchot , all the way. It is one of those wines that annoys me as a writer because I like it too much to feel like I can accurately describe it. But perhaps calling it my shower Sauvignon Blanc speaks a thousand words. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Want to read more from Ellen? Check out her recent articles: Fast Food Slow Wine: Let’s Support Local Pizza! Old World vs. New World: Pinot Noir Part Deux Old World vs. New World: Pinot Noir Part One Quaran-wine Pastimes It's Okay to Like Pinotage You can also listen to Ellen's podcast , The Wine Situation here . Check out her recent transcripts of the Final Five questions: Wine Situation Final Five! With Victoria James Wine Situation Final Five! With Carrie Dykes

Samuel Baron

Touraine Sauvignon Blanc 2018

Zippity do dah do this wine.so very refreshing but has a hint of softness too. Its acidity isn’t neon, more of a soft pastel—springlike. In fact I feel like this wine smells like Easter. A fresh lawn, some lilies, and morning dew. Do. Do this dew, not the mountain one. — 3 months ago

Severn, Martin and 19 others liked this
Karen Tripson

Karen Tripson

Loved your sav blanc feature which inspired a tasting to be with similar selections from champion cellars in seattle. Thanks!
Ellen Clifford

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@Karen Tripson Thanks! I’m glad you enjoyed it 😊

Smith & Sheth

‘CRU’ Wairau Sauvignon Blanc 2019

I’m just now catching up on adding my notes on this! Smith & Sheth always makes me happy. Even just on the nose this SB puts on a show, ripe fruit and minerality dancing quite elegantly. On the palate the show goes on although you can’t watch it because the wine is in your mouth and you don’t have eyes there. I hope. I get good acid, an essence of effervescence and flowers, gooseberries and a mango event. I drink CRU up I do! — 2 months ago

Paulo, Matt and 14 others liked this

Grgich Hills Estate

Napa Valley Fumé Blanc (Dry Sauvignon Blanc) 2017

A snappy dresser, this Fumé Blanc, it wears colorful cravats and drops dry jokes like no tomorrow all while drinking a sophisticated well made daiquiri. Then it softens, and makes it clear to you that it is there for you. The sharp persona shed. For a moment. All of which to say is this wine is pungeant and herbal yet lemonyly (it’s a word now) with a hint of tropical flowers up front then there is a butter-you-up underbelly then it punches up with acid and alcohol. I want to be this wine’s friend but it will be one that keeps me on my toes. — 2 months ago

Shay, Jason and 38 others liked this
Ellen Clifford

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@roberthowey thanks!! Glad to help:)
Paul T- Huntington Beach

Paul T- Huntington Beach

Using my iPad since I broke my phone, wow I can see so much more now. Clean up that couch
Ellen Clifford

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@Paul T- Huntington Beach but my couch is my other desk!

Patient Cottat

Anciennes Vignes Sancerre Sauvignon Blanc 2018

Oh yeah Sancerre being tricky in a blind tasting I’d call this...I don’t know it’s so ripe. But that doesn’t mean it ain’t a tasty treat. More stone fruit. Some grass. White pepper and haunting white flower.its skinny fat. Good acid but voluptuous. — 3 months ago

Paul, Serge and 25 others liked this

Château La Gravière

Entre-Deux-Mers Sémillon-Sauvignon Blanc Blend 2019

Quite nice. For the price. Say it once. Say it thrice. I drank this as I a) tried to avoid eating everything in my kitchen for the what-day-of-quarantine-are-we? day and b) tried to learn to appreciate Fiona Apple. I want to like her so much more but I feel she’ll be like Mars Volta. It’ll be an “okay I’ll let that shuffle choice play” until one day it hits and I’M IN. Maybe.
Ahem.
So lots of citrus and vanilla. Maybe some fake oak things I didn’t like up front but given time and air I appreciated the weight against the punchy greens and acid. Much as I’ll appreciate the slow cords against Fiona’s spoken-word-esque lyrics someday maybe.
But in all truth yeah I like this wine. It coats the mouth and ballasts they soul and has a lot going on for the price. And takes a minute to appreciate but it’s good for an evening.
— 2 months ago

Daniel, Severn and 18 others liked this

Justin Vineyards & Winery

Paso Robles Sauvignon Blanc 2019

Another one I put off notes on! But let me tell you I was tempted to get another bottle just to make sure my original notes were accurate. Very bright and zippy that smells of grapefruits and seashells then tosses in yet more citrus and greenery on the palate. Oh so very fun, easy going and friendly like the sunshine that is not to bright, just right. — 3 months ago

Serge, Iwan and 16 others liked this

Matetic Vineyards

EQ Coastal Sauvignon Blanc 2019

This could use the additional information of being from the Viñedo Valle Hermoso, just to add that in. It’s all herbs and asparagus served on a plate of chalk and all that just sounds like...too much. But? They pull it off with aplomb. I’ve always been a minimalist but somehow this wine is maximalist and minimalist? I don’t know how they do it but it’s very good. — 2 months ago

Serge, David and 8 others liked this
Paulo Saliby

Paulo Saliby

This is a beautiful winery to visit with a great restaurant...
Ellen Clifford

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@paulosaliby i have to make it to Chile some day!

Domaine du Bouchot (Kerbiquet)

Pouilly-Fumé Sauvignon Blanc 2017

Ooooh I want to dance with this wine. It is nimble and graceful and yet structured enough to make you feel like it is a partner that will not drop you which is important if you are either going to a) attempt a lift or b) drink. Full of minerals and stone fruit with a lover’s bite of acid. It keeps you on your toes. — a year ago

David, Daniel and 13 others liked this

Château Marjosse

Bordeaux Blanc White Bordeaux Blend 2016

All sorts of mineral and chervil and just blooming honeysuckle. Golden hued with a bit of sap. All sort of understated but just complex enough and thirst quenching enough to keep one going. I believe there is a goodly amount of Semillon and a smidge of Muscadelle at play here, it is not especially expressive of Sauvignon Blanc but, you get it. Quite elegant. Rather balanced. I can drink a lot of it. And I suppose I shall it’s lockdown time, what else to do? — 2 months ago

Serge, Bob and 18 others liked this
Paul T- Huntington Beach

Paul T- Huntington Beach

Does it include a bong?
Ellen Clifford

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@Paul T- Huntington Beach ha nooooo. It smells much better than weed though
Paul T- Huntington Beach

Paul T- Huntington Beach

Good to know,
Surprised you’re up this early, you normally post or comment at 1:00am or later🤷🏼‍♂️, actually I have to work tomorrow,, lame! Up at 1:30am tomorrow. I liked the shut down when I could sleep till noon🙄,

Honig

Reserve Rutherford Sauvignon Blanc 2018

If key lime pie in a butter crust with a vanilla whipped cream were not sweet...that is what this is like. Richness, lilting vanilla and cream harmonizing with butter and butter. It is oak on white done right. — 2 months ago

Serge, Severn and 20 others liked this
Eric LaMasters

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That description sounds wonderful
Ellen Clifford

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@Tyler Martinelli nice! So many wineries I need to visit someday...
Ellen Clifford

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@Eric LaMasters thanks! If the description was wonderful it’s only because the wine was wonderful ;)