Monday, April 14, 2008

Here Comes the Sun: Two Cool Sauvignon Blancs

Temperatures went above 90 degrees this weekend in LA. I know that it may be snowing where you are, but the sun and hot temperatures are coming. When they do, there is no wine that beats the heat more than Sauvignon Blanc. Drinking a chilled Sauvignon Blanc is the gustatory equivalent of laying down in cool morning grass under a lemon tree and being spritzed by a garden hose.

Stores are starting to get in their new Sauvignon Blanc releases, and I have two for you to look out for that are made in similar styles but come from different parts of the world. This means that while both are crisp and cooling, they deliver very different taste profiles. Hopefully one of the two will appeal to you and you'll get some in the house for when the summer weather breaks.

First up is the very good QPR 2006 Saint Clair Sauvignon Blanc. ($10.89, Costco; $13-$17 from other merchants) This is a classic Marlborough style Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. The winery is new to me, and I've already had their Pinot Noir recommended to me by a reader, so it may be that this is one of those names to watch out for in the store as a reliable value producer. It has a typically pale, almost translucent color. Aromas of grapefruit, fresh cut grass, and a zing of lemon zest are consistent with the cool, clear appearance of the wine. The flavors are all across the citrus scale, with a decidedly grapefruity aftertaste, along with some herbal and mineral notes. The wine gets its crispness in part from being fermented in stainless steel tanks at cool temperatures, which helps maintain freshness.

Here in the US, the 2006 CrauforD Maroon Vineyard Highlander Sauvignon Blanc from the Napa Valley also goes through cool temperature stainless steel fermentation. ($10/375ml, 34 North Wine Merchants; $13.50/750ml from online merchants) As in the case of the Saint Cloud Sauvignon Blanc, this keeps the wine crisp and fresh. But this example from Napa both the colors and the flavors of the wine are richer, despite the fact that there has been no malolactic fermentation or use of oak. The wine has aromas of stone fruit (specifically nectarine), citrus (specifically lemon), and melon. The color is pale straw, just a shade darker than the Saint Cloud. The flavors are more reminiscent of hay and melon, but the aftertaste is still fresh and crisp. Another very good QPR choice for this summer.

Either wine would be excellent with a wide range of summer foods, including salads, chicken grilled with lemon and herbs, or shellfish. Both are perfect for sipping, enjoying with meals, and cooling down in the hot summer evenings to come.

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