The Biscayne Times

May 28th
Battle of the Sauvignon Blancs PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jacqueline Coleman, BT Contributor   
August 2018

Red, white, and you: Agreeable wine for $15 or less

HPix_Vino_8-18ello, August! The month when we’re couch-bound due to oppressive heat and afternoon downpours, yet we’re not yet at the official start of football season. If you’re counting reasons to justify your time in front of the tube, consider this: As we gear up for football, let’s get our competitive (grape) juices flowing a little early with a rivalry hotter than UM vs. FSU.

How about California versus New Zealand…. Sauvignon Blancs, that is.

All New World Sauvignon Blanc fanatics have an opinion on this one, and usually it draws a pretty good discussion. Both regions produce fruit-forward wines of exceptional quality, but there are distinct differences that can turn friends into foes at the dinner table. What is it about this single varietal that expresses so differently in each place?

Let’s start with New Zealand, where Sauvignon Blanc is one of the main varietals. Many Team New Zealand zealots are drawn to this version of the varietal because of the intense grapefruit and lush tropical fruit flavors mixed with herbaceous green qualities. Delightfully refreshing, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is often characterized as exuberant and intense.

In California, Sauv Blanc can be expressed in a few different ways, including as its alter ego, Fumé Blanc. Usually when made in this region, Sauvignon Blanc has a more dominant citrus or green apple burst of flavor, and is slightly mellower when it comes to the tropical fruit than its Kiwi cousins. When produced in the Fumé Blanc style, Sauvignon Blanc may even be aged in oak; the Fumé Blanc designation doesn’t always mean the wine has seen oak -- simply that it’s made in a drier “Loire” style.

Here’s a selection of economical Sauvignon Blancs that may help you decide which one is your winner.

One of the favorites from Team New Zealand is the 2017 Oyster Bay. This wine comes across just as you’d expect, with a big pop of grapefruit, gooseberry, pineapple, and all the tropical fruit flavor you love on the nose. A little more citrusy on the palate complemented by mild acidity. On the second glass, you’ll get some of that grassy green melon that pairs so well with goat cheese.

For something a little lighter, try the 2017 Governors Bay from Marlborough. Definitely more of that melon salad on the nose and a bit more acidity in this wine. I taste a hint of orange deep on the back of my tongue but notice a shorter finish than with the first wine.

The 2017 Ponga New Zealand Sauv Blanc is truly an enjoyable wine. Bright and crisp with melon and dried apricot on the nose. Soft peachy tones dance around the palate, with a fresh and fruitier finish. A little less dry than the previous two wines, this wine is a perfect summertime salad accompaniment.

I find the 2017 Brancott Estate Sauvignon Blanc to be the most unusual of the New Zealand grouping. This pungent wine fits the more intense designation given to some Sauvignon Blancs. With sharp citrus flavors, it’s a bit like a punch of fruit on the nose. A bolder, more full-flavored palate, it would pair better with heavier foods.

Much to my surprise as a longtime member of Team New Zealand, I really enjoyed the three California Sauvignon Blancs. The 2016 Justin Sauvignon Blanc from the Central Coast region of California is a beautiful fuller-bodied wine with crisp green apple on the nose and a refreshing lemon-citrus flavor on the palate. Full of flavor, refreshing, and balanced, Justin is the new go-to Sauvignon Blanc on my list.

For more of a typical California wine experience, try the 2016 Dry Creek Vineyard Fumé Blanc, out of Sonoma County. This wine is made in the dry “Loire” style, as Fumé Blanc designates, but it is not oaked. A big green apple bomb on the nose and palate, the Dry Creek is much bolder than those from New Zealand. Overall, an enjoyable wine.

Another favorite is the 2016 Hess Select. The lightest nose of Team California wines, this wine surprises with a bit of honey on the palate. I’d describe the flavors of the nose and palate to lean heavy on ripe green apple, but a slight mix of grapefruit peeks in, along with a quick lemon zest on the tongue. Hess is a solid brand that holds up well in this Sauvignon Blanc competition.

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