Late springs calls for sauvignon blanc
Wine Adviser Paul Gregutt loves this grape, especially when it is handled gracefully, with the alcohol kept moderately low and the clean fruit flavors left unoaked.
Special to the Seattle Times
Pick of the week
Viu Manent Reserva Sauvignon Blanc; $7.
VIU MANENT uses only estate-grown fruit for this wine, which is labeled Reserva but is the least expensive in the line. Crisp and racy, with distinctive, sharp-toned aromas and flavors of grapefruit, it is best enjoyed chilled. (Distributed by Grape Expectations)
SAUVIGNON BLANCS seem to be the perfect wines for early summer. Value choices abound in many styles, and the very color (pale yellow), scent (cut grass and citrus) and flavors (a range of herbs, spices, citrus, green berry and melon) seem to echo the season itself.
Personally, I love this grape, especially when it is handled gracefully, with the alcohol kept moderately low and the clean fruit flavors left unoaked. Among Washington versions, Precept Wine's Washington Hills and Waterbrook brands both excel.
The Washington Hills 2011 Sauvignon Blanc lists for $10 but can often be found for less. It is high in acid, 13 percent alcohol, with sharp, grassy flavors just right for shellfish.
The Waterbrook 2011 Sauvignon Blanc sells for around $12 and is more concentrated, with alcohol pushing 14 percent. Bright, spicy scents of new-mown grass, herb, pine needle, citrus and melon lead into a fresh, textural and persistent wine, with a depth of flavor rarely found at this price.
Another marvelous choice is the Jones of Washington 2011 Sauvignon Blanc, selling for about $15. Here the tongue-zapping acidity is muted somewhat by residual sugar. The wine is zesty, lightly grassy, spicy and stylish, with a finishing streak of minerality.
Walla Walla's SuLei Cellars leaves a bit of residual sugar in its 2011 Spring Creek Sauvignon Blanc (about $18). It's fermented in stainless steel, then aged in a mix of neutral oak and stainless-steel barrels. The result is a fleshy wine loaded with citrus and honeydew melon fruit.
Elsewhere in the New World, look to Chile for bracing, fruit-driven sauv blancs. The Pick of the Week is a fine example.
In Italy and parts of France the wines are often labeled simply Sauvignon — the blanc part, they assume, can be observed in the bottle. From Trentino, in Italy's northeastern corner, comes the Këssel 2009 Sauvignon, with a splash of minerality underlying the peppery gooseberry fruit. Le Grand St. Vincent 2009 Sauvignon, from the Loire Valley region of Touraine, is a light wine — just 12.5 percent alcohol — with delicate flavors of cucumber and apple. It sells for about $10.
Some might say (and I might agree) that the greatest sauvignon blancs in the world are from Sancerre, another Loire Valley subregion. Unfortunately, they have become more and more expensive. But here's a little gem from vigneron Gilles Lesimple. The 2010 Lesimple Sancerre is produced in the village of Chavignol in the heart of the region. A mélange of floral and pea-vine aromas, apple and melon fruit, with a mineral underpinning, it's a fine value at $20. Even better is the Henri Bourgeoise 2009 Le MD Sancerre — a juicy, lightly honeyed, citrusy wine with marvelous complexity. About $33, and well worth it.
About Wine Adviser
My column is all about sharing the joy of exploring all the world of wine. I want to guide people to make inspired choices, and encourage them to try as many different styles of wine as they can. I will always seek out the best wines at the best prices. Wine Adviser runs on Sunday in Pacific Northwest Magazine.