Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Sauvignon Blanc - a Mini Blind Tasting

Good friends NorthCarolinaGuy and Gal were in town for a few days and what better reason to have a wine tasting? The tasting gang hasn't been together for a while now - April was the last time we really did our thing. I tried to do a Beaujolais tasting over the summer but lots of people actually came and the tasting became eating and drinking a load of Beaujolais instead. That's a fun thing to do on a summer evening though, so no complaints.

Why Sauvignon Blanc this time around? Because there are many great wines to be had in the $12-30 range, from many wine regions, and also because I think Sauvignon Blanc can be a great late summer and fall food wine. Tangy, citrusy, sort of grassy, minerally, light, lip smackingness that goes well with most fish and chicken dishes, and late summer vegetable dishes too, like a squash and roasted tomato tart, for example.

Everyone brought one bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, we bagged 'em, tagged 'em, and tasted 'em. Each taster noted their top three favorites, in order, and we added up the scores to pick a winner (first place vote=3 pts; second place vote=2 pts; third place vote=1 pt). After that we spent the evening drinking the wines with a variety of goat cheeses, a classic pairing. And if this evening proved anything to me, it is that Sauvignon Blanc goes GREAT with goat cheese, the creamy young ones, the chalky older ones with an ash coating, and the really old hard ones too.

A couple of general thoughts: the Loire wines kind of blew the others away. Not only to my tastes, either - they were the top scoring wines. Granted, we only tasted 6 wines, but I thought that they were just better than the rest. Could be our small sample, but this reiterated for me that France continues to make some of the finest under $15 wine in the world. There was no New Zealand wine in this tasting, which is a shame. And no Long Island wine either. Another time...

The 2006 Domaine du Salvard Cheverny, ($14 at Prospect Wine Shop and readily available at other stores) received 5 out of 7 first place votes! This is the same wine that I went nuts for almost a month ago. It really is that good, and at about $14, it's a steal. Happily for consumers, there are many producers making great wine in Touraine, Cheverny and other parts of the Loire, many of the wines at this price. This one, like all Cheverny, is actually a blend, with about 10% Chardonnay in the mix. People liked the balance of this wine, the clean aromas and flavors. NorthCarolinaGuy said it smelled like dandelions.

Strangely, I was not one of the 5 people who picked it as their favorite. I preferred the wine that took second place, the 2005 Lucien Crochet Sancerre La Croix du Roi (about $23, available everywhere). I was the only one who put it in first place, but 2 people picked it second, and 2 more as their third favorite. I thought this wine was excellent, with inviting and warm citrus oil aromas, some grass and herbs, and wet slate minerality. It really drew me in, and the palate was so nicely textured, medium bodied and well balanced. A nice choice from NorthCarolinaGuy and Gal.

A wine from Graves in Bordeaux took third place, getting the final first place vote from Mike (a true Bordeaux-phile) along with 2 second place votes. Like the Cheverny, Bordeaux blanc wines tend to be blended, in this case with Semillon. Many whites in Bordeaux are oaked, but I am not sure whether or not this is. I would bet that it does see some oak. The 2006 Château Graville-Lacoste Blanc ($12 at Wine Library in New Jersey, about $15 everywhere else) had a lovely nose of flowers and citrus, with good acidity and balance on the palate. It lacked the focus and definition that I found in the Loire wines, but it was very good, and I think a good value.

Next comes a Deetrane special, a wine he bought somewhere on the gray market, that even had we loved, we would never be able to find for purchase. From northern Italy in the Fruili region, the 2003 Vie de Romans Fruili Vieris Sauvignon (price unknown, unavailable) was just strange. 2 people liked it enough to put it in second place, and 2 more people put it in third place, so it definitely appeals to some palates. Not mine though. Here are my notes from the tasting:
"What an intense tropical nose, like pineapple candy. Overwhelming, and not natural, in my book. The palate features pineapple, red ruby grapefruit, and other fantastically candied flavors. Interesting, in the way pop rocks are interesting - you're happy you tried them, but you don't really want more than a taste." But remember, some folks liked this wine, so don't write off Fruili Sauvignon Blanc just cause I thought it sucked.

The two wines pulling up the rear, so to speak, were both from California. The 2006 Honig Sauvignon Blanc ($12-15, available everywhere) had a positively green tint to it, and although it is unoaked, it had a distinctive creaminess to go with the grass and lemons. But it was not very focused, and there was not enough acidity to balance the wine. It got a second place vote and a third place vote.

The 2006 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Sauvignon Blanc Rancho Chimiles (about $27, unsure about availability) did not show well in the blind tasting, getting only 1 third place vote. Maybe it needs more time in the bottle? I found it to be a bit dull. Cat pee nose and a creamy palate but with a bitter quinine type of edge to the finish. Guarantee you that had we not done this blind, this wine would have scored much better.

Okay, that's the word on our tasting. I learned that I need to explore the inexpensive Sauvignons of the Loire, and also that I may be missing something by not drinking Sancerre more often.

6 comments:

RougeAndBlanc said...

Neil,
If you like Loire SB, NZ style may be too grassy for you though.
Regarding the 'Deetrane special', the 2000 vintage is available here but it is not cheap:
http://www.turnpikewines.com/sku11736.html
Price aside, I am now really curious about this 'artificially flavored' SB. Wish I have a bottle myself for future food pairing cuz it sounds so different from the others.

Jack said...

Judging all Friuli SB by a single bottle from the heat-wave year of 2003 doesn't seem right. Too bad you didn't choose a 2002 Movia, a 2004 Pierpaolo Pecorari Vigne Kolaus, or a 2005 Venica & Venica Collio Ronco delle Mele.

Besides these three, I'm been really loving a variety of Alto Adige sauvignon blancs this year. Sanct Valentin remains the most distinctive, but Laimburg and Kellerei Kaltern Premstaler were also excellent.

The Loires I tasted this year from Edmund Vatan, the Cotats and Dagueneau, amongst others, haven't been as good as the Italians.

Brooklynguy said...

Hi Andrew - i admire your curiosity, especially after my review of the wine. Let us know if you try it.

Jack - you're totally right, I would never write off any type of wine based on one taste. this was, though, a bad first impression. you'd have to talk to Deetrane (and I wish that you would) regarding his choice of this wine over the others you mention.

Dagueneau not as good - wow. And Cotat too?!? That's quite an endorsement of the Italians. I hope I have an opportunity to taste one sometime.

Jack said...

Except for 2003, the Cotats have always come through - except this time. There was a bunch of us here (incl. a top winemaker and a top winebuyer) - everyone agreed that the Movia ruled the day with Sanct Valentin a close second and Dagueneau third. (I did cheat by opening the Movia a day earlier...but most Movia's need extra time, despite Ales' releasing them as late as he does.) Even I was surprised at the results.

Joe said...

Hi Brooklyn. Sipping the Salvard right now and LOVING IT! Nice pick, nice price. Cheers!

Brooklynguy said...

So glad to hear it Joe, that's great. Usually we can't taste each other's recommendations cause of your weird SAQ situation, but I'm glad it worked out this time.