Like This, Try That: Sauvignon Blanc Edition - IMBOLDN
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Sauvignon Blanc is a delightfully drinkable wine. In some snobbish circles, labeling a wine as “drinkable” is a passive aggressive way to comment on a marked lack of complexity, but great Sauvignon Blanc is both approachable and layered – a combination surprisingly uncommon in the wide, wide world of wine.

Sauvignon is a fairly global grape. You may have seen it imported from France disguised as Pouilly-Fume or Sancerre, but the varietal is also grown and vinified in Australia, New Zealand, California, Washington, South Africa, Chile, and even Romania. Flavors range from sweetly floral to green and funky. Prepare to see wine critics wax poetically about “hints of cat pee” or “essence of freshly cut garden hose” and know they mean those strange descriptors as compliments.

Note: If you’ve been faithfully following our “Like This, Try That” series, you’ll notice right way that the diamond wine in this edition is priced a lot lower than the starring wines we’ve showcased previously. Sauvignon Blanc tends to be more affordable in general, but don’t get it twisted – wine prices are all relative, and this is one time you can save a few bucks without cheating your palate.

Alphonse Mellot ‘Les Romains’ Sancerre, 2016

Sancerre is often driven by acidity and minerality, and that’s definitely the case here. There’s a steely quality to Les Romains, combined with chalky notes and a lemony green bouquet that’s slightly softened by a touch of cream. If you love wines that are focused and refreshing, you’ll enjoy this bottle, especially if you’re looking for refreshment on a hot day or something to serve alongside crackers and a wedge of triple-crème brie.

As for the winery, you’re gaining access to a ton of history for less than $40. The Mellot family has been in Sancerre for at least 500 years. Cesar Mellot was Louis XIV’s wine advisory, and his descendants continue to rack up accolades, prestige and international acclaim.

Local: Henry Marionnet Domaine de la Charmoise Sauvignon Blanc, 2016

Another family-owned winery, Domaine de la Charmoise has been under the Marionnet family’s control since the mid-19th century. The winemaker eschews chemical treatments and oak aging in favor of clean, bright wines that deliver value – something ideal for sipping before dinner or all through an alfresco lunch.

Drink this bottle either after or at the same time as the Mellot recommended above and experience just how different the same grape from the same country can be. Both wines are unmistakably Sauvignon Blanc, but Henry Marionnet’s version is like the wilder, less restrained sibling. There’s a hazy wreath of smoke adding an edge to the underlying layers of pineapple, grapefruit, and delicate florals. Even as you register the light dollop of cream, you feel the acidity come slicing through, creating ripe-meets-tight sensation that’s intriguing and enjoyable. There’s something pretty about this wine, but it’s pretty with a wink.

A Little Far-Flung: Kim Crawford Signature Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, 2017

Sauvignon Blanc production in New Zealand only turned commercial in 1979. That’s little more than a catnap in terms of the timeline of wine history, but NZ producers have made good use of the four decades since to capture a serious share of the international market. Sauvignon Blanc can be a tad austere in France – though this is not necessarily a bad thing – while New Zealand’s SB’s are ripe and rich to the north and boldly fruity with lots of acid to the south.

Kim Crawford is to New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc what Kraft is to mac and cheese. There may be more frou-frou offerings (and those may be quite tasty), but there’s something classic and infinitely enjoyable about a Crawford SB. Pithy grapefruit and dried herbs are the most prevalent flavors, but there’s a bit of fleshy citrus and tropical juiciness in there too. Acid fiends will find that this wine delivers without becoming angular, rendering the finish nicely balanced and full of personality.

Out There: Shannon-Downes Family Vineyards Sanctuary Peak Sauvignon Blanc, 2016

If you’re new to South African wine, this Sauvignon Blanc from the Downes Family/Shannon Vineyards (the Downes Family designation is used for US sales and marketing) will be a fun and tasty introduction. The Shannon and Downes families trace their lineage back to County Cork, Ireland, but these days they’re very much tied to life and winemaking in the Elgin Valley. Terroir is important, as is harmony, balance, and a comparatively hands-off approach that lets the fruit shine as it’s meant to.

This is where Sauvignon Blanc gets feisty. Citrus in wine? Sure. Flint? That’s easy to get behind. Even a bit of clay and minerality can sound appealing if you know what to expect. But asparagus? Capsicum (that’s a fancy name for peppers, by the way)? It sounds odd in the way bacon-infused ice cream makes you question life for a moment, but there’s plenty of familiarity courtesy of apple, peach, and even kiwi to keep you taste buds anchored while the rest of you explores what an age-friendly Sauvignon Blanc can be.