From every corner of the world, Sauvignon Blanc sings of summer, revealing everything from flinty crushed stone and lemon blossom, to ripe grapefruit and gooseberry, to soft herbs and freshly cut grass. It is a variety that captures the character of the terroir, wrapped with a refreshing, satisfying bow.
Perhaps Sauvignon Blanc doesn’t come to the top of your mind when you think of Tuscany. Still, along the coast, in Bolgheri, the variety reveals structure with finesse, showing perfumed aromas and a sun-drenched Mediterranean character. Poggio alle Gazze dell’Ornellaia ($82) energetically shows white flowers, orchard and stone fruit, and wet stone earthiness with touches of saline and delicate herb. The Sauvignon Blanc base is blended with a touch of Viognier, Verdicchio, and Vermentino, adding aromatics and texture to the highly refreshing, delicious selection.
France boasts two styles of Sauvignon Blanc, the white wines of Loire Valley, grown in the picturesque landscapes of Sancerre, Pouilly Fume, Quincy, and Reuilly; and those of Bordeaux, classically the white wines of Graves, Pessac-Leognan, and when produced in the sweet style, the golden wines of Sauternes and Barsac. Though from the same country, grown in areas that are not that far apart, the wines couldn’t be more different.
Sauternes is famously known for its honey-filled dessert wines. However, over the past handful of years, dry Sauternes Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon blends are proving the area can craft both styles with well-defined character, refinement, and utterly delicious taste. One of the best, Chateau Rieussec Bordeaux Blanc-Sec ($40). Though their sweet Sauternes consistently earns some of the highest ratings available (upwards of 96 and 97 points each year), their dry Bordeaux wine successfully showcases the region, in every balanced, beautiful glass. Partially barrel fermented and aged, in barrel with consistent lees (yeast) stirring for five months, the wine has a complexity and abundance, sometimes lacking in Sauvignon Blanc, with a medium-body, layering Asian pear and tropical mango with lemon curd and white flowers. With an underlying note of acidity, the wine maintains approachability, enjoyable on its own or with roasted chicken, pork, grilled seafood, or creamy cheese.
Within the Loire Valley, the soils are filled with silex, flintstone, giving a note of smokiness to the lemon-lime wines. Perhaps nothing highlights this more than Didier Dagueneau Blanc Fume de Pouilly Silex ($140), highlighting intense smokey, crushed-stone, and earthy minerality, melding harmoniously with lemon zest and spiced ginger.
Very much in this style, Napa Valley’s Quintessa Winery showcases the richness and texture barrel fermentation, and aging can bring to Sauvignon Blanc in their Illumination ($55). Utilizing stainless steel, concrete eggs, and neutral barrels, creating texture and tension in the wine, melding bright acidity with fresh, juicy fruit, with an underlying note of minerality.
Utilizing every tool in the shed, Napa’s renowned Spottswoode Estate produces one of the most elegant expressions of Sauvignon Blanc in the region. Starting with premium fruit from both mountain and valley floor vineyards throughout Napa and Sonoma, then, based on the character of the fruit, utilize clay amphora, ceramic and concrete eggs, new French oak, and neutral oak, revealing the essence of the fruit, creating a well-rounded, elegant expression of Sauvignon Blanc ($46).
From 100% certified organic Napa Valley fruit, ZD Wines delivers its new ZD Sauvignon Blanc ($27). Highly aromatic, with aromas of honeysuckle, lemon blossom, and lime leaf, leading into a punchy palate of ripe apple, candied ginger, nectarine, and white grapefruit. The perfect wine to enjoy while soaking up the sun by the beach or pool.
Marrying a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, with Chardonnay, Malvasia, and Pinot Gris, Flora Springs Soliloquy ($50) is a multi-dimensional wine with textured richness, showing stone fruit notes of white peach, apricot, golden nectarine, with touches of fresh cream.
For the past forty years, Sonoma’s La Crema Winery has been known for its approachable, balanced, cool-climate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines. Now, they are adding Sauvignon Blanc to the mix with their inaugural 2019 La Crema Sauvignon Blanc ($25). Capturing the abundant sunshine of Sonoma County, the wine shines with tropical fruit notes of mango, guava, and passionfruit, with a subtle, slightly grassy soft herb note rounding out the finish.
Across the expansive 1682 acres in Napa’s Vaca Mountains, Somerston Estate farms 244 acres of vines to produce character-driven wines with personality for their Somerston Estate, Priest Ranch, and Highflyer wines. Priest Ranch Sauvignon Blanc ($22) melds ripe citrus notes of mandarin and grapefruit with lilikoi and ripe mango.
High atop Napa’s Atlas Peak, Acumen Wines crafts distinct Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc from certified organic and sustainably farmed vines with a mineral core thanks to the volcanic soils of the mountain. Sitting above the fog line, sunshine can ripen fruit without experiencing excessive temperatures, ensuring that wines have structure and complexity, leaning towards an Old World style I love. Acumen Mountainside Sauvignon Blanc ($30) ages for eight months in French oak and stainless steel barrels on the lees, enhancing the texture of the fruit, delivering fresh, floral aromas of jasmine, wisteria, and Meyer Lemon blossom with chalky, crushed stone earthiness.
Juicy and succulent, Rombauer delivers a fruit-forward Sauvignon Blanc ($24) from warm Pope Valley in Napa Valley and cool Carneros. The mix ensures that the wine is bright and zippy, with underlying fruit-forward lushness revealing pomelo, key lime, and lemonade lemon.
It is no secret that I am a lover of the wines of Alto Adige, Italy. My trip in 2014 is still one of my favorite wine experiences of all time. Mainly because of the region’s beauty and the incredible freshness of the wines grown in the shadows of the Dolomite Mountains. Though the Pinots shine here (Pinot Grigio, Pinot Bianco, and Pinot Nero) over a dozen other varieties thrive as well, including elevated expressions of Sauvignon Blanc, as displayed in Cantina Terlano-Kellerei Terlan Quarz Sauvignon ($65).
Bringing together 143 grower families in and around the village of Terlano, the 120+-year-old cooperative is one of the most highly respected producers of the region. Kellerei Terlan Quarz is intense and robust while maintaining balance and restraint, revealing grapefruit zest, ripe apricot, white flower, and freshly cut grass. If you can manage to let the bottle age a bit, subtle tertiary notes of petrol begin to emerge, adding another layer of dimension to the wine.