Sauvignon Blanc gains ground
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Here are flavors that I love: Ginger (especially sushi ginger); lime (squeezed over Thai and Mexican dishes); green herbs (in sauces like pesto and in Mid-East and Mediterranean dishes.)
Knowing my favorite food flavors, it shouldn't come as any surprise that I also love Sauvignon Blanc.
Sauvignon Blanc "Unique"
Domaine du Salvard
Loire Valley, France
Ÿ Suggested retail and availability: $14.99 at wine shops and specialty stores (distributed by Vintage Wine Co., Des Plaines)
Complex aroma jump-starts a rich palate that unfolds, layer after layer, in flavors including minerals, fresh herbs, pine and racy acidity. Grown in the Loire – the region of France's great Sauvignon Blanc – wine lovers will liken "Unique" to Sancerre, but at half the price! Serve with classic French dishes aux fines herbes, including omelets, roast chicken and seafood. Also a perfect complement to backyard bonfires, autumnal dusk and the aroma of falling leaves.
I'm not the only one loving Sauvignon Blanc these days. Sauvignon Blanc sales are up nearly 10 percent this year, closing the lead long-held by Chardonnay.
Food-friendliness is a major factor in Sauvignon Blanc's success. America's most-popular international cuisines — including Mexican and South American, Greek and Mediterranean, Indian, sushi and Pan Asian — are especially suited to Sauvignon Blanc's herbal accents and citrusy acidity.
These descriptors aren't random. While Chardonnay (especially oak-influenced Chardonnay) is dominant in diacetyl — the natural compound that gives butter its flavor — Sauvignon Blanc is high in methoxypyrazine — which flavors green olives, herbs and green vegetables.
So, when serving buttery preparations, serve Chardonnay. But when serving dishes with olive oil, veggies or herbs, choose a Sauvignon Blanc, such as "Ross' Choice" and these other favorites:
Quintay "Clava" Sauvignon Blanc ($11.99 Chile): How all this snappy minerality, dynamic herbaceousness and lime-y zest can merge into a round, cohesive mouthful of flavor is beyond me, but this summer, this wine has held a permanent position in my fridge. It's a must-have for sushi, Thai and Mid-East BYO and carryout.
Joel Gott Sauvignon Blanc ($13.99, California): "Poor man's Chardonnay" — not! While some producers bulk up Sauvignon Blanc's flavor (and price tag) with oak, Joel Gott relies on the grape alone — slow-ripened in the cool mist of Monterey, then rested in stainless steel — for lip-smacking flavor. I won't argue with the back label that reads "tropical fruit and mouthwatering acidity," but I enjoy the wine's rich herbal qualities for a full-flavored cocktail and complement to light meat dishes and rich seafood. Grilled Mahi-Mahi with Mango and Cilantro Salsa anyone?
Full disclosure: My favorite Sauvignon Blancs are grown in cool climates. Warm climate Sauvignon Blanc ripens to flavors compared to honeydew melon and I just can't do honeydew!
• Advanced Sommelier and Certified Wine Educator Mary Ross writes Good Wine. Write her at email@example.com.
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