Sauvignon blanc - Quenching the summer sizzle
Aug 8, 2018
Kevin Marshaus

We call this segment “Refresh,” and I can think of no wine more appropriately “refresh”-ing during these steamy summer days and sultry nights than the tantalizing crisp, fresh flavors of Sauvignon Blanc.

Sauvignon Blanc finds its home in France, where it is native to two distinctive regions. First, Sauvignon Blanc is the basis for most of the white wines from Bordeaux, where it is often blended to add richness and layers of depth to the wine. In the Eastern Loire (luh WAHR) River Valley the wines are made from 100 percent Sauvignon Blanc, exuding the grape’s expressive purity. Across the river from each other at its westward bend toward the Atlantic are the villages of Sancerre (sahn SEHR) and Pouilly Fumé (PWEE foo MAY). Sancerre is usually more bracing and bold, while Pouilly Fumé typically exhibits more subtle mineral overtones. 

California produces Sauvignon Blanc (sometimes labeled as “Fumé Blanc”) of very good quality in a variety of regions. Primary fermentation in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks highlights the fruit’s natural characteristics. Blending this with judicious amounts of barrel treated wines imparts subtle oak characteristics and creaminess. While typically reasonably priced, Sauvingon Blanc can get expensive. One of my most memorable wine experiences –September, 2004 – involved the Robert Mondavi Reserve “To Kalon I-Block” Fumé Blanc ($75 then, $90 now). Standing in the “I-Block” itself, (believed to be the oldest Sauvignon Blanc vineyard in North America, planted in 1945) it was served to my group by the late Robert Mondavi’s lovely and charming grand-daughter, Carissa Mondavi (conducting her very first tour!) We strolled around plucking and tasting the precious few stray late-hanging berries missed in the harvest from the ancient vines, along with the wine they eventually become. Magic of the moment aside, the wine itself that day stands on its own, indelibly etched into my memory.   

New Zealand’s Marlborough is a valley in the northeast corner of the country’s South Island where excellent Sauvignon Blanc flourishes, surrounded by mountains and opening to the eastern coast. New Zealand is influenced by extreme weather patterns. However, the mountain ranges protect Marlborough from all types of severe weather, since most precipitation falls as weather systems pass over the higher ground. This leaves Marlborough in a “rain shadow” where dry, hot sunny days (perfect for wine grapes) abound. Very cool nights here slow the ripening of the grapes, helping the wines develop their signature, unparalleled vibrant core of acidity surrounded by layers of vivid, explosive citrus and tropical fruit flavors producing delicious, intense Sauvignon Blanc.

Wines regularly Living in Fort Wayne: 

1. Pascal Jolivet Sancerre, 2016 ($30) – A lemongrass, white grapefruit and flinty nose leads into lemon-lime and green apple flavors with grapefruit zest and a touch of mineral in the lingering finish. Elegant, refined and impeccably balanced! Consistent across the decades!

2. Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Fumé Blanc, 2015 ($20) – Aromas of lemongrass and passionfruit lead seamlessly into like flavors along with citrus and honeydew, finishing with a sensual whisper of oak-ey creaminess. The first level of several serious Sauvignon Blancs bottled by Mondavi – it’s like peering through a porthole into the expansive beauty that is the “I-Block.” 

3. Kim Crawford, 2017 ($15-20) – Melon and citrus in the nose, with grapefruit, apricot, melon, gooseberry and citrus flavors. While elegance is atypical to bold New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, this is a fine example.

Sauvignon Blanc has the acidity, structure, vibrant elegance and complexity to complement an array of entrées from vegan fare to filet mignon. Suitable all summer long, make Sauvignon Blanc your go-to white this season!

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