Diversity of styles and expression of terroir are strong factors in the worldwide surge of Sauvignon Blanc. While releases from California are abundant, countries such as New Zealand, Italy, South Africa and Chile have expanded plantings and production of the once obscure grape.
Sauvignon Blanc is vibrant, fruit forward and accessible to most palates and pocketbooks. On warm summer evenings, it can serve as a refreshing, food-friendly alternative to chardonnay.
Distinctive styles were showcased at a recent sauvignon blanc tasting with a diverse panel that included Craig McAllister/La Crema(Sonoma County), Daniele Vuerich/Attems (Italy), Warren Ellis/Neil Ellis (South Africa), Nikoili Saint-George/Cloudy Bay (New Zealand) and Xavier Barlier, representing Ladoucette from the Poilly Fumé region in France.
Pouring the wines side-by-side, I was taken aback by the diversity of aromas from subtle and steely to intense and fruity.
The tasting began with the first Sauvignon Blanc vintage from a known producer of Sonoma County pinot noir and chardonnay. After winemaker Craig McAllister, with roots in New Zealand, joined La Crema, it was only a matter of time.
Sourced from the warmer Sonoma County vineyards, the 2020 La Crema Sauvignon Blanc Knights Valley is partially barrel-fermented to add texture. A vibrant bouquet of tropical and stone fruits carried through the flavors and a long finish. Craig pairs this wine with oysters, ceviche and fried fish.
From the Venezia Giulia region in northeast Italy, the Attems Sauvignon Blanc 2019, according to winemaker Daniele Vuerich, is vital to the region.
The wine is terroir-driven and balanced with steely, mineral hints on the nose and crisp stone fruit and green flavors throughout. Daniele pairs his wine with roasted trout and risotto.
Neil Ellis is a pioneer among South African wineries and has been a top producer since 1993. The Neil Ellis Groenekloof Sauvignon Blanc 2019 is sourced from bush vines (non-trellised) near the Atlantic Ocean, where the evenings are cooler.
Winemaker Warren Ellis credits added sun exposure provided by the bush vines and use of wild yeast for the array of tropical and stone fruit flavors with herbaceous and mineral elements throughout. Warren generally pairs his wine with grilled fish.
Cloudy Bay and New Zealand’s Marlborough region is credited with sparking the global surge of sauvignon blanc. Although they began to produce the varietal in 1985, the 2020 Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc is the first vintage of new winemaker Nikoili Saint-George.
Balanced intensity is what best describes this wine. The distinctive flavor profile consists of a concentrated stone fruit foundation with subtle mineral notes. Nicoili pairs it with buttered scampi briefly cooked in a pizza oven.
I had an opportunity to visit the Pouilly-Fumé region in 2018. To that end, I was excited that the 2018 Ladoucette Pouilly-Fumé was part of the tasting.
Described by Xavier Barlier as a sauvignon blanc without make-up, with minimal intervention. The result is complex tropical fruit aromas and a rich mouthful. Xavier likes pairing it with goat cheese.
Global expressions of Sauvignon Blanc are distinctive and readily available to enhance your next summer gathering.