Featured Monthly Tasting:

Sauvignon Blanc
 

July 2008

Introduction

Sauvignon Blanc is a varietal that originated in Southwest France and gradually made its way around the world, first to the Loire Valley in France and then on to Chile, California, New Zealand, South Africa, and numerous other countries.  It produces one of the world’s great wines for fish, goat cheese, and even sushi.  It also produces some of the world’s greatest sweet wines in Sauternes and Barsac, but those wines are not reviewed here.

The aromas and flavors of dry Sauvignon Blanc vary with climate, soil, and wine-making.  Cooler climates allow for longer time on the vine and better balance and intensity of bouquet.  Sauvignon Blanc is grown in many soil types, including the flinty limestone soil of Pouilly-sur-Loire, which is reflected in the Pouilly Fume wine of the region.  [Robert Mondavi’s Fume Blanc is also made from Sauvignon Blanc, but the name has nothing to do with either the soil or the taste of the wine.]  Winemaking practices vary widely including time of skin contact, fermentation temperature, and oak aging.  These practices result in wines which vary quite dramatically in aroma and flavor, ranging from grassy, herbaceous to tropically, lush.  At their best, Sauvignon Blanc wines can have complex, perfumed aromas, good fruit flavors, relatively high acidity, and a distinct mineral-like note.

The Tasting

Our tasting sampled just a small selection of the Sauvignon Blanc wines produced around the world.  Still, we managed to include wines from California, Washington State, Chile, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain, and several regions of France.  One can find Sauvignon Blancs of excellent quality from each of these regions.  However, overall, our favorites in terms of quality hail from France and California, and the best values come from Chile and South Africa.

Our choices for wines of outstanding quality are:

Dagueneau 2006 Silex Pouilly-Fume Pouilly Fume ($117) 94
Christian Lauverjat 2006 Moulin des Vrilleres Sancerre ($21) 91
Robert Mondavi Winery 2006 Fumé Blanc Reserve To Kalon Vineyard Napa Valley ($40) 92
Alphonse Mellot 2005 Generation XIX Sancerre ($56) 91

Our choices for wines of outstanding value are:

Cono Sur 2007 The Southern Cone Central Valley Chile ($10) 90
Seven Terraces 2007 Seven Terraces Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough, NZ ($17) 90
Spice Route 2007 Sauvignon Blanc Darling SA ($15) 89
Boekenhoutskloof Porcupine Ridge 2007 Sauvignon Blanc Franschhoek SA ($12) 88
Man Vintners 2007 Sauvignon Blanc Coastal Region SA ($10) 88

Sauvignon Blanc: Tasting Notes and Ratings

La Moussiere Sancerre Bottle

 

Alphonse Mellot 2006 La Moussiere Sancerre ($30) 89

Alphose Mellot’s La Moussiere, is sourced from young and old vines from the estate’s 35 ha low-yielding single vineyard. The wine reveals a pale straw color with aromas of citrus and mango. Lemon and lime fruit provide a tart attack with crisp mouth feel and medium high acidity. Nice long finish.

Importer: Elite Wines Lorton, VA

Alphonse Mellot 2005 Generation XIX Sancerre ($56) 91

This special Mellot cuvee produced from a 6 ha 87 year old vineyard, has a starbright medium lemon color and is mineral laden with a richly layered bouquet of light butterscotch with hazelnut and floral notes. The chalky soil shows on the tight, stony palate and mineral-infused finish. Superb.

Importer: Elite Wines Lorton, VA

Cave Les Costieres de Pomerols 2007 Beauvignac Sauvignon Blanc Vin de Pays d’Oc ($10) 87

This 320 member cooperative-produced wine is medium lemon color with a green tinge. It has an expressive nose of floral, tropical and white fruit aromas and a simple, fruity attack of pear and melon. Shows good acidity and a fresh, moderately rich finish.

Importer: Kysela Père et Fils, Winchester, VA

Boekenhoutskloof 2007 Porcupine Ridge Sauvignon Blanc Franschhoek ($12) 88

This pale straw colored wine displays ripe melon and tropical fruit aromas. There’s a soft attack of ripe melon and pear fruit with decent acidity and a persistent finish. Good value!

Importer: Vineyard Brands, Inc., Birmingham, AL

Christian Lauverjat 2006 Perle Blanche Sancerre ($23) 90

Christian and Karine Lauverjat’s twelve hectare vineyard in the heart of Sancerre provides the fruit for this lovely, medium lemon colored wine. On the rich, complex nose one finds leesy melon, honeysuckle, and a note of banana peel. The round palate is stony and crisp with nutty, leesy notes.

Importer: Elite Wines Lorton, VA

Christian Lauverjat 2006 Moulin des Vrilleres Sancerre ($21) 91

Light medium lemon in color, this complex, ripe, mouth-filling wine displays light citrus with melon and nutty aromas and a mellow attack of medium acidity. In the mouth, it’s round and ripe with minerals and a stony character. Shows a long flavorful finish

Importer: Elite Wines Lorton, VA

Cono Sur 2007 Sauvignon Blanc Casablanca Valley ($10) 90

This pale straw colored, nicely balanced Sauvignon Blanc from Chile displays pretty, floral and light grassy aromas. It’s almost Viognier like on the palate with white peach and apple flavors and very good acidity. The finish is nice, long and crisp. No wonder this wine won Washington, DC’s, Old Ebbitt Grill’s annual wine and oyster pairing contest.

Importer: Vineyard Brands, Inc, Birmingham, AL

Silex Pouilly Fume Bottle

 

Dagueneau 2006 Silex Pouilly-Fumé Pouilly Fume ($117) 94

Didier Dagueneau's Silex is one of top wines of Pouilly-Fumé. It displays a deep lemon gold color with a starbright robe and aromas of citrus and candied lemon. Barrel-fermented, it is soft and leesy on the attack, offering complex flavors of honey, citrus and lemon with great elegance and depth. This terroir-driven wine is a hard act to follow, but you will have to pay for it.

Importer: Elite Wines Lorton, VA

Domaine Bellevue 2007 Sauvignon Touraine ($12) 87

Medium lemon in color, this tasty, uncomplicated wine shows green grass and gooseberry aromas followed by a soft, fruity attack of passion fruit and notes of anise. Good value !

Importer: Elite Wines Lorton, VA

Domaine de Coussergues 2007 Sauvignon Blanc Vin de Pays d'oc ($11) 86

This is a pale straw, straightforward, easy-drinking wine exhibiting herbs and gooseberry notes on the bouquet. Gooseberry fruit is prominent on the palate along with good acidity.

Importer: Kysela Pere et Fils, Ltd Winchester, VA

Domaine Denis Gaudry 2007 Pouilly Fumé Pouilly Fumé ($24) 90

This medium lemon Pouilly Fume evokes citrus fruit, toasted oak and hazelnut on the nose. The very dry palate is elegant and richly textured with delicate tropical passion fruit flavors and abundant minerality, followed by a lovely, long finish.

Importer: Vineyard Brands, Inc., Birmingham, AL

Domaine Michel Thomas & Fils 2007 Sancerre Blanc Sancerre ($27) 87

Laurent and Michel Thomas grow grapes on three soil types in 40 separate parcels covering 17 hectares, 11 of which are Sauvignon Blanc. The 2007 Sancerre Blanc is pale lemon in color with floral, pear and stone fruit aromas with medium acidity on the slightly tart stone fruit palate.

Importer: Kysela Pere et Fils, Ltd Winchester, VA

F. Tinel BlondeletF. Tinel Blondelet 2005 Genetin Pouilly-Fume ($22) 90

Genetin is an old name for sauvignon blanc in the Loire Valley. This family winery is now in its 6th generation with Annick Tinel at the helm. This lovely, medium lemon color wine exhibits fresh, ripe tropical passion fruit and white peach aromas with chalky notes. There’s an exotic mélange of tropical fruit on the palate with a full, ripe, soft mouth feel and a long, flavorful finish.

Importer: Kysela Pere et Fils, Ltd Winchester, VA

 

Goldwater 2007 Goldwater Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough, NZ ($18) 88

This Sauvignon Blanc displays a pale straw color and a pungent nose of gooseberry and cat pee. On the palate it offers ripe passion fruit flavors, a round mouth feel, fresh acidity and a crisp finish.

Importer: Pasternak Wine Imports Harrison, NY

Hamilton Russell Vineyards 2007 Southern Right Sauvignon Blanc Walker Bay ($17) 88

This is a zesty Sauvignon Blanc which displays a light straw-green color and aromas of fresh lime and citrus. On the palate it offers light fruit flavors with good acidity and a crisp dry finish. This is a whale of good wine.

Importer: Vineyard Brands, Inc., Birmingham, AL

Jean Reverdy 2007 La Reine Blanche Sancerre ($26) 88

This pale lemon, single vineyard Sancerre is cold-fermented in stainless steel and sees no oak or malolactic fermentation. It shows rich floral aromas with nutty notes. The steely attack shows minerals with melon fruit and a round, chalky mouth feel with a crisp finish.

Importer: Kysela Pere et Fils, Ltd Winchester, VA

Bodega Juan Ramirez 2006 Actino Valdepenas ($ 7) 86

The Actino has a pleasant straw-gold color and ripe melon nose. It’s full and ripe in the mouth with modest fruit and finishes rather short without a lot of varietal character.

Lestourgie 2006 Domaine de Chevilly Quincy ($17) 86

Melon, pear and rose petal aromas grace this medium lemon colored Sauvignon Blanc hailing from Quincy, located to the southwest of Sancerre. The Domaine de Chevilly estate is 9 hectares of sandy and gravel soils. The palate on this wine is chalky and dry with somewhat muted melon flavors and floral notes.

Importer: Elite Wines Lorton, VA

Man Vintners 2007 Sauvignon Blanc Coastal Region ($10) 88

Man Vintners is a new South African wine venture led by wine entrepreneur Charles Beck [of Goats do Roam fame]. Designated as one of South Africa’s top ten up and coming wineries by the UK Wine report, the winery purchases grapes only from growers subscribing to a strict code of labor standards in the very dry, shale soils of Perderbeg Hills. This Sauvignon Blanc is pale straw color with tropical and floral aromas, including a prominent white peach note. It shows good acidity, a soft attack with a round mouthfeel and a mélange of tropical fruit flavors. An excellent value.

Importer: Vineyard Brands, Inc., Birmingham, AL

Mercer Estates 2007 Sauvignon Blanc Columbia Valley ($15) 86

Mercer Estates is a family-owned winery in Washington State with David Forsyth leading the winemaking. The fruit for this pale straw colored Sauvignon Blanc is sourced from the Columbia Valley AVA. It exhibits passion fruit aromas with an herbal note and presents a crisp attack with tart, citrus flavors on the palate.

Importer: HG Marketing Brooklyn, NY

Monterey Sauvignon Blanc

 

Morgan 2007 Monterey Sauvignon Blanc Arroyo Seco and San Lucas ($15) 88

This pale-medium straw colored wine has a dose of Semillon and short term aging in oak barrels. It has a lovely, fruit forward nose of tropical fruit and floral notes. This is a nicely balanced, well-made wine showing a lovely mouth feel with good fruit and moderate acidity. Good value.

 

Neil Ellis 2007 Sincerely Sauvignon Blanc Western Cape, South Africa ($14) 86

Light straw in color, this crisp, dry Sauvignon Blanc displays aromas of melon and sage and an attack of melon and tart citrus fruit. on the palate. Not a terribly complex wine, but pleasant and easy to drink.

Importer: Vineyard Brands, Inc., Birmingham, AL

Oberon 2006 Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley ($15) 89

Winemakers Rob Mondavi and Cony Coltrin produce this star bright lemon colored Sauvignon Blanc, which shows fresh ripe pear and melon aromas and offers up a medium-bodied, wonderfully balanced palate of ripe melon fruit that finishes crisp and long. A lovely wine and good value, too!

Importer: Folio Fine Wine Partners Napa, CA

Patient Cottat 2005 Vielles Vignes Sancerre ($25) 89

Medium straw. Lemon-lime, floral and spicy herbal aromas greet this medium-straw colored Sancerre. The nicely balanced, steely palate reveals modest lemon/lime fruit

Importer: Vineyard Brands, Inc, Birmingham, AL

Quivira Vineyards 2007 Fig Tree Vineyard Dry Creek Valley ($18) 86

Family-owned Quivira Vineyards uses organic farming to grow its own fruit in the Dry Creek Valley AVA. This pale lemon straw colored Sauvignon Blanc has a muted nose of herbs and fruit and a palate of modest fruit flavors and a crisp finish.

Robert Mondavi Winery 2006 Fume Blanc Napa Valley ($20) 89

Robert Mondavi invented the term “fume blanc” to successfully market California Sauvignon Blanc. This medium straw colored wine is produced from fruit (92% Sauvignon Blanc, 8% Semillon) sourced in the Stags Leap and Oakville districts and 60 percent fermented in French oak, 40 percent fermented in stainless steel. The interesting nose on this wine shows fresh hay, a touch of melon and gooseberry. It has a crisp attack of moderate acidity with a distinct floral character to the green apple. The finish is persistent and flavorful.

Robert Mondavi LabelRobert Mondavi Winery 2006 Fumé Blanc Reserve To Kalon Vineyard Napa Valley ($40) 92

The fruit for this outstanding, straw colored 90% Sauvignon Blanc, 10% Semillon wine is sourced entirely from the famous To Kalon Vineyard with a yield less than two tons per acre. It is then 100 percent barrel-fermented in 27 percent new French oak and aged a further ten months in French oak. The result is a complex wine exhibiting honey, assertive gardenia aromas, and hazelnut aromas. The exotic, honeyed palate shows white flowers and toasty vanilla balanced by medium high acidity, topped off by a lovely, long finish.

Importer: Robert Mondavi Winery, CA

Seven Terraces 2007 Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough, NZ ($17) 90

This classic Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc produced by winemaker John Belsham displays attractive aromas of melon and ripe pear and guava and reveals a delicious, very dry attack of ripe pear, melon and gooseberry fruit with good acidity. Quite delicious, and good value, too!

Importer: Meadowbank Estates/Empson (U.S.A.) Alexandria, VA

Spice Route 2007 Sauvignon Blanc Darling ($15) 90

Spice Route grapes are grown on the rolling hills near Darling. The vines are dry farmed and untrellissed. The wine is medium lemon gold in color with an exotic bouquet of spicy red currant and ripe mango with mixed nuts. The palate is round and ripe showing a complex flavor profile of sweet, ripe fruit that finishes long with a sweet and sour note. This is a good example of sauvignon blanc in the tropical style. Try with Asian food.

Importer: Vineyard Brands, Inc., Birmingham, AL

Tramin 2006 Stoan Alto Adige ($22) 90

Yes, Sauvignon Blanc is grown in Italy, too, although this wine is really a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco, and Gewurztraminer that fermented in large oak barrels. The name Stoan refers to the local term meaning stony soil. The wine is médium lemon in color with very fresh, spicy melon and floral aromas of rose petal and gardenia. It’s Viognier like on the palate with soft, sweet fruit on the attack and lovely flavors of melon and lime zest with an accent of nuts.

Importer: Winebow Montvale, NJ

Vavasour 2007 Awatere Valley Marlborough, NZ ($20) 87

Very pale straw color, this Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc exhibits pungent grassy and asparagus aromas and a crisp palate of citrus and lime zest. The wine has nice acidity and a long finish.

Importer: Pasternak Wine Imports Harrison, NY

Vavasour 2007 Dashwood Marlborough, NZ ($16) 89

Pale lemon in color, the Dashwood Sauvignon Blanc shows muted grass and gooseberry aromas. There’s a rich, ripe attack of gooseberry and lime zest leading to a dry, mineral-laden mid-palate. Finishes long and flavorful. A very good wine and an even better value!

Importer: Pasternak Wine Imports Harrison, NY

Ventana Vineyards 2005 Sauvignon Blanc Arroyo Seco ($16) 88

Medium straw in color, this lovely Sauvignon Blanc offers an aromatic nose of ripe citrus followed by a soft crisp attack, round mouth feel and a long lively crisp finish.

Importer: Balzac Communications (Matthew) Napa, CA

Villa Maria LabelVilla Maria 2007 Private Bin Marlborough, NZ ($16) 88

Private Bin designates entry level wines for Villa Maria. This Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc is pale straw color, showing grass and gooseberry aromas. It’s very fresh with a rich, ripe fruit palate that finishes dry and crisp. A very pleasant wine that doesn’t taste entry level to us.

Importer: Vineyard Brands, Inc., Birmingham, AL

 

Vincent Delaporte 2007 White Chavignol ($32) 90

Light straw in color, the Vincent Delaporte Chavignol offers up aromas of sharp citrus and lime with floral notes. Medium high in acidity, the tangy citrus palate reveals lovely, fresh fruit with a slight chalky note and a very long finish. Delicious!

Importer: Vineyard Brands, Inc., Birmingham, AL

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