Ordinarily, if something tastes good and isn’t expensive, it’s well-known and popular. The wine business being the wine business, however, means that logic often doesn’t count for very much. Which is why chardonnay is celebrated, pinot grigio is trendy, and not nearly enough people drink sauvignon blanc.
Go figure. Sauvignon blanc (or fume blanc, as it’s sometimes known) pairs wonderfully with almost any food except the reddest of red meats, and it has a fruit-forward, accessible taste that makes many inexpensive pinot grigios taste like turpentine. Plus, since the grape doesn’t require long aging in oak barrels — just a little bit of steel, please — it’s usually a great value when compared to pricier chardonnays.
There are three main styles of sauvignon blanc: The French, with a mineral-like, almost flinty taste that is traditional with seafood; the New World, typically New Zealand, which is much more citrusy; and the California style, which is somewhere between the first two.
These wines are a good sample of what sauvignon blanc offers — serve each of them well-chilled:
• Nobilo Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2002 ($9). This is typical of the New Zealand style and taste, featuring mouth-popping, bright fruit flavors. Try this with a white pizza or a seafood pasta drizzled with olive oil.
• Kunde Magnolia Lane Sauvignon Blanc 2002 ($12). Nice enough to serve guests, yet inexpensive enough to drink regularly. It’s blended with semillon and viognier, so it’s softer than a New World sauvignon and is much less intimidating for the faint of heart. Pairs well with shellfish or pork loin roasted on a bed of apples.
• Fournier Grand Cuvee Sancerre 2000 ($19). A classic French sauvignon blanc from the Loire’s leading appellation at a more than fair price. Think Ernest Hemingway in a Parisian café, slurping oysters and planning his next trip to Spain for the bullfights.
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