Monday, June 25, 2007

Cats, Grass, and Gooseberries

Cat (pee). Grass. Gooseberries. These are the flavors and aromas that are sometimes associated with assertive sauvignon blancs from the Marlborough region of New Zealand. If you're thinking "I'll pass, thank you," you may want to think again. Marlborough sauvignon blancs are very good summer wines, and about as refreshing as white wine can get with the exception of vinho verde.

Cat pee aside (which I don't usually smell, to be honest), the herbal and grassy qualities of a Marlborough sauvignon blanc give the wines a summery feel, and the slightly sour, tart gooseberry flavor has the briskness to cut through the most humid day. Never had a gooseberry? If you've had an under-ripe Thompson green seedless grape it's not too far off gooseberry, and the truly desperate can look for some Follain's Irish Jam which comes in a fairly tart gooseberry variety. It is still a jam, though, so it is sweeter than any sauvignon blanc you're likely to try.

Perhaps it would be easier to just look for the 2006 Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc Private Bin ($10.95, Chronicle Wine Cellar; widely available from other merchants for between $9.99 and $14.99)? This yummy, refreshing, and excellent QPR Marlborough sauvignon blanc exudes grassy, grapefruity, and gooseberry aromas. A pale straw in color, the flavors are also full of gooseberry, with notes of the tart white pith from a grapefruit, a bit of cilantro, and a distinctive mineral streak that really adds freshness and complexity. This is not a tropical fruit salad style sauvignon blanc, but will make you think of cool green ferns, cool green vegetables, and juicy fruit.

On a hot, sticky day this wine is perfect paired with a bowlful of peel-and-eat shrimp (I buy mine cooked at the store or frozen in the bag at Trader Joe's), crack open a jar of cocktail sauce, and toss a salad. Serve with some chunks of a good baguette, and the summer heat won't bother you nearly as much--especially since everything's so cold, crisp, and refreshing and you've barely spent any time at all in the kitchen.

Villa Maria is a family-owned New Zealand estate winery, and they were one of the first wineries to go 100% screwcap in 2004. Their Private Bin line of wines was developed to display the true varietal characteristics of the grapes in question. While their sauvignon blanc is the most widely available of their wines in the US, keep your eyes out for their other bottlings (including pinot noir and gewurztraminer) since this is a producer that consistently produces high quality, good value "go-to" wines.


winedeb said...

Have not had the cat pee aroma yet, but now that you mentioned it I will certainly smell for it! Just got back from Chicago and loaded up on NZ wines as they are my very favorite. Also since you have gotten me on the Spanish kick, I loaded up with some new ones for me. Will be tasting and posting soon on all the newbees. Perfect timing for the next WBW!

Dr. Debs said...

Good to have a stash of SB for summer. Looking forward to the Spanish wine reviews, too!