Weekend Wine: The Sneaky Sauvignon Blanc

How much grapefruit juice aroma is too much?

Sauvignon Blanc is a chameleon wine that can completely change its aromas, flavors, and looks based solely on where it is grown. Its primary focal points are aromas that shift gradually from stone/mineral/fresh cut grass to grapefruit juice and then to even more grapefruit juice.

Kim Crawford Winemaker Anthony Walkenhorst (Photo Courtesy of the Winery)

The former wines come mostly from France (Sancerre, Pouilly-Fumé, Saint-Bris) and Italy (Collio, Friuli, Alto Adige).

The other end, with an unfortunate tendency to overemphasize the “even more grapefruit juice” model, originally started with New Zealand’s version.

Of course, the “even more grapefruit juice” wines became a phenomenal success, while the far more interesting wines with stony minerality were poo-pooed as uninteresting.

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to have lunch with someone from the governmental agency in New Zealand that controlled the wine business. I asked if they didn’t pump up the grapefruit aromas for USA consumers. Unbelievably, he told me that many wineries did just that. The fact that winemakers are using this tactic definitionally means they think the wine they are sending to us is not as good as what they make for the home crowd.

Kim Crawford offers richly textured Sauvignon Blanc ($12) that had a noticeable hit of grapefruit but also had some of the other characteristics. If you would like to try what the folks at Kim Crawford consider to be their top shot at SB, try their Signature Reserve Sauvignon Blanc ($24), a wine that fairly bristles with flavor. The Signature Reserve has the grapefruit aromas New Zealand is famous for but also pushes the tropical fruit and citrus flavors of the Old World wines. Crawford’s high-end SB pairs beautifully with Asian takeout. We had it with Bún Thịt Nướng from our favorite Vietnamese place and the pork flavors married perfectly with the raw vegetables, fish sauce, and the Signature Reserve.

For a fun chance to see what several great winemakers can do with the same grape, be sure to get a bottle of Duckhorn’s Napa SB which should run a similar price. Old World fans should try Venica et Venica’s Sauvignon ($20) from Colio in Italy and Clotilde Davenne’s Saint-Bris ($20) from the Burgundy area of France.

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