Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Sauvignon Blanc: Heat Wave Wine

Here I sit, trudging through the third heat wave that New York City has seen this summer! In fact, 96 degrees is starting to feel like the new normal. The days of big, structured red wines are long gone. At this time of year, I’m longing for something different; something with enough fruit to soothe my craving, yet cold and with enough acidity to keep it mouthwatering. This time of year, I’m craving Sauvignon Blanc.

I know that some people might think of Chardonnay, or even Riesling, but not me. For me, Sauvignon Blanc is the ultimate hot weather wine. It’s extremely versatile with lunch, dinner, the grill, or just sitting around on a hot summer afternoon. What’s more, you can find it in all styles, from rich with ripe tropical tones to mineral-laden with tart citrus that makes your cheeks pucker.

It’s also one of the most versatile food wines I know. How many wines do you know of that can pair with salad, asparagus or sushi? The right Sauvignon Blanc can. What can be confusing is knowing what you’re going to get from a bottle. You can generalize that California will produce a ripe Sauvignon, but it’s often the grower and winemaker that determines a wine's characteristics. Was the climate moderate or hot? Was the soil gravel or schist? Was the wine aged in barrel or stainless steel? The good news is that they are all wonderful expressions of this zesty white wine and a good rule of thumb is this: if it goes with lemon, then it goes with Sauvignon Blanc.

This year I had the pleasure of tasting some outstanding wines from a number of different regions. Many of these have found their way into my cellar, and I'm hoping you will enjoy them as well.

On to the notes:

Napa Valley, United States

Year in and year out, Larkmead's Sauvignon Blanc finds its way to the top of my list. It’s a perfectly balanced wine that can be enjoyed upon release or put away in the cellar to gain further complexities. Unfortunately, it’s made in such small amounts that it never finds its way to retail shelves but is a great reason to visit the winery if you're ever in Napa Valley. In fact, Larkmead is one of a small number of wineries whose mail list I remain signed up for. All of the wines are worth trying.

2011 Larkmead Sauvignon Blanc Lillie B4 block - The nose was beautiful, showing fresh citrus tinged green notes of herbs and field grasses, ripe stone fruit backed by a hint of undergrowth with an intense mineral core. On the palate, it was elegant with silky textures, just the slightest touch of oak ushering in melon, and citrus notes with a hint of herbs. The finish left me wanting more, as its well integrated acidity made the mouth water to notes of ripe melon with a zest of orange. This is easily one of my favorite vintages and reaffirms my belief that this may be the best Sauvignon Blanc coming out of Napa Valley. (93 points) Visit the Larkmead website!

Alto Adige, Italy

Northern Italy continues to impress me with their white varieties. The region has become a powerhouse producer of vibrant white wines that tantalize the palate while refreshing the senses. Last year, one of my top wines came from this same region, and here we are again with a Sauvignon Blanc worth searching for.

2011 Cantina Andriano Sauvignon Blanc Andrius - The nose showed intense tart grapefruit, lemon and green stems with a whiff of dried minerals. On the palate, it was softer than expected with tart acidity showing more toward the close, with flavors of lemon and mineral stones. The finish remained tart, yet mouthwatering with long, staying citrus tones. It was beautiful. (90 points) Find it on: Wine-Search!

North Fork Long Island, United States

The North Fork of Long Island continues to push the envelope as the quality of their red wine rises. However, something that I don’t often hear mentioned is the varietal white wines. I’ve tasted a number of great whites that are worth your attention. A few that immediately come to mind are One Women Wine Chardonnay, Paumanok Chenin Blanc and, of course, Macari Sauvignon Blanc Katherine’s Field.

2012 Macari Sauvignon Blanc “Katherine’s Field” - The nose showed peach skins with hints of lemon, minerals and a dash of vanilla. On the palate, it was racy and clean with ripe white fruits accented by lime and herbs. It finished clean and refreshing with a bitter lemon peel note lingering through the close. (89 points) Find it on: Wine-Searcher!

Stellenbosch, South Africa

South Africa is starting to carve out it’s own niche in the production of Sauvignon Blanc. Not having a lot of experience with the wines, I was very happy to make the discovery below.

2012 Thelema Sauvignon Blanc - The nose showed tart grapefruit aromas with hints of minerals and herbs. On the palate, it was rich and juicy with sour citrus and herbal tones. The cleansing finish was mouthwatering and long with tart citrus fruit. (89 points) Find it on: Wine-Searcher!

Marlborough, New Zealand

And then there’s New Zealand. Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand has certainly gained a well-deserved place among the top producing nations. The wines have a unique character that is truly New Zealand. Their long growing season and maritime influences allow Sauvignon Blanc to achieve amazing intensity, ripeness of fruit and zesty acidity. On those extremely hot days, no wine can cool me down faster.

2012 Chasing Venus Sauvignon Blanc - The nose was fresh with intense aromas of grapefruit, fresh-cut grass, chalky minerals and a hint of green peas. On the palate, a mix of sweet fruit and tart acidity made for a great contrast of textures with flavors of passion fruit, stony minerals and lemon-lime, which seemed to linger for half a minute through the finish. It was remarkably fresh and perfect for a hot summer night. (88 points) Find it on: Wine-Searcher!


  1. Hi Eric,

    Glad the Thelema Sauvignon Blanc could quench your thirst on a hot summers day. We're expecting snow on our mountains this weekend, so we'll be sipping on a Cabernet to keep warm.


  2. HI Eric,
    Very interesting your article abour Sauvignon Blanc. Keep up your wine articles.

    Porto Branco

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