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posted: 8/30/2011 3:00 PM

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.

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 food@dailyherald.com.

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