30 Second Wine Advisor: Worldwide Sauvignon Blanc

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Worldwide Sauvignon Blanc

Following directly on the heels of last month's Wine Focus on New Zealand, which naturally put a lot of Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc on the table, let's make the logical move from this into a study of Sauvignon Blanc around the world as our Wine Focus topic for September.

Sauvignon Blanc wins fans (and, frankly, some detractors) because of its highly aromatic nature. But its style can vary widely, from an in-your-face chile pepper and even "cat box" character to grapefruit to cool, fresh-mowed grass and hay; it can be fruit-forward or lean, and in some of its most intriguing examples, can show a subtle, complex minerality. Much depends on climate, soil and vineyard practice; give it sun and warmth and get ripe citrus; shade the grape bunches and keep them cool and gain "green" herbaceous aromas.

It's hard to think of a wine-growing area that can't produce Sauvignon Blanc: New Zealand has claimed it as a trademark variety, but it was a mainstay of France's Loire Valley for centuries before New Zealand became a nation; it's also important as the white wine of Bordeaux, in a blend with Semillon.

California is another center of Sauvignon Blanc production, where for generations it is alternatively marketed as Sauvignon Blanc or Fumé Blanc, originally in homage to the Loire's Sauvignon-based Pouilly-Fumé. In the early days, Mondavi intended "Fumé" to indicate a Sauvignon with a whiff of oak, distinguishing it from the regular oak-free Sauvignon. This distinction has been lost for a generation, though, and nowadays "Fumé" is used, if at all, strictly as a marketing option.

Finally, a bit of Sauvignon Blanc trivia that may surprise you: In the 17th century, French vine growers experimentally crossed Sauvignon Blanc with Cabernet Franc to see what might emerge. The result was the great Cabernet Sauvignon of Bordeaux. Think about that, the next time you're inclined to give short shrift to Sauvignon Blanc.

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Today's Tasting Report

Foucher-LeBrun 2010 Sancerre Blanc Le Mont ($19.99)

Le Mont

Clear straw color. White fruit aromas, pears and a whiff of honeydew. Dry and tart, medium-bodied ripe pear flavors follow the nose, snappy acidity and rational 12.5% alcohol as befits a wine meant for the table. There's distinct minerality there, too, reminiscent of the scent of a stream running over limestone, adding complexity that lifts it above the mundane level of Sauvignon Blanc. U.S. importer: Vanguard Wines LLC, Columbus. (Aug. 30, 2012)

FOOD MATCH: It would find a natural match in oysters or firm-fleshed river fish, or with summer's fresh vegetable bounty. We went the latter route with bowls of fresh okra and tomato gumbo, Cajun style but with the spicy heat held back to keep it in tune with the dry, tart wine.

WHEN TO DRINK: Some "connoisseurs" do cellar high-quality Sancerre for up to a decade in the interest of developing subtle complexity, but this requires an excellent cellar that can hold a steady 55F (13C). I'd be more inclined to enjoy this one over three years or so past the vintage, which would eliminate excess angst about cellar conditions.

VALUE: The $20 point is certainly fair for a high-quality Sancerre of a recent vintage. Still, Wine-Searcher.com shows a median $17 for this wine from U.S. Vendors, with at least one retailer claiming a $14 price point, so it may pay to shop around.

Here's a brief look at the Sancerre Le Mont on producer Foucher-LeBrun's website in English.

Locate vendors and compare prices for Sancerre Le Mont on Wine-Searcher.com.

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