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How to Avoid U.S. Sauvignon Blancs That Taste Like Your Lawn

on 13/06/11 at 11:09 am


More often than not when ordering a white wine I go for a Sancerre or Pouilly-Fume, made from the sauvignon blanc grape in France’s Loire Valley. I find it as versatile as an aperitif as I do with a wide variety of foods to follow, and the price is usually right.

What I almost never do is order a sauvignon blanc from America, where it is sometimes called fume blanc. All the virtues I find in French sauvignon blancs — their aromatic bouquet, herbaceous, slightly grassy flavor, and lightness of structure — are often squandered in California and Pacific Northwest wineries, which tend to overemphasize herbal notes, making most taste like a newly mown lawn with plenty of dandelions and a little fertilizer thrown in.

Many deliberately imitate the fruit-punch flavors of the enormously successful Cloudy Bay and other sauvignon blancs from New Zealand. Wine Spectator’s MaryAnn Worobiec writing about Cloudy Bay found “Tangerine, mango and citrus flavors are pure and focused, smooth, round and wonderfully refreshing, with peach, Key lime pie, mineral and floral elements that really take off on the finish.” As I said, fruit punch.

America’s sauvignon blancs tend not to be quite that aggressive, but their styles differ radically. Some are very light, others hefty, with up to 14.5 percent alcohol. The big grassy ones are a mouthful, but their charms fade very fast after a few sips.

{Full story via John Mariani/Bloomberg News}

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