Summer suggests sauvignon blanc. Okay, it also implies some lusty reds for bounty from the barbie, but I happen to have tasted several sauvys recently, so let’s assume that it’s shrimp on the grill, not burgers or pepper-rubbed rib eyes. Let’s also assume that nobody wants to pay a bundle for summer sippers, and all of these fill that bill. In no particular order, here they are.
Viña los Vascos Les Domaines Barons de Rothschild, 2009 Sauvignon Blanc, Casablanca Valley, Chile. Just look for Los Vascos writ large on the label. The nose of this one has it all—grapefruit, passion fruit, citrus peel…and on the palate there’s ruby grapefruit and a little creamy lemon curd, along with more passion fruit. The tasting notes also claim chive…ehhh, maybe, but the claimed white peach and green apple are definitely subordinate to grapefruit. In all, crisp and reasonably complex with a whiff of mineral.
In the next case, some French winemakers seem to be making more complex wines in Chile than at home. The Guy Saget 2008 La Petite Perriere Sauvignon Blanc from the LoireValley was a perfectly pleasant wine with delicate aromas (including a little mineral), a faint citrus quality and nice melon notes upon warm-up. The notes say good with goat cheese, and, tried with Humboldt Fog, the pair was better than either alone. Still, not in any way distinctive—though it would be easy to keep sipping it through a sultry afternoon.
Moving on to New Zealand, the Kiwis have, on the basis of the next two wines, begun to muzzle the extreme grapefruit qualities that distinguished (or diminished) some of their sauvys in years past. Yes, the Vavasour 2009 Dashwood Sauvignon Blanc betrays its heritage with grapefruit on both the nose and palate, but it matures into some beautiful tropical fruit with time. On second tasting, passion fruit held the upper hand. Give passion time, in other words.
In contrast, the Goldwater 2008 Wairau Valley Sauvignon Blanc headed straight for the tropics right out of the gate. Melon was big, along with passion fruit again, and grapefruit sat firmly in the back seat. Pleasant, crisp and not too pushy, this could become a summer stalwart.
A textbook case in showing how different the sauvignon grape can be in a different climate and in different hands was presented by a California version, the 2008 Morro Bay Split Oak Estates California Sauvignon Blanc “Sur Lie”. Interestingly, the winemaker’s notes claim grapefruit and gooseberry in some sort of Kiwi wannabe reaction. But this isn’t what I got from the wine; it was all crisply fruity with melon, peach and apricot and a touch of yeasty lees to start. (The wine is stirred on its spent-yeast sediment at least every two weeks before bottling.) No citrus. And none was really needed.