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Second Fiddle no More

By Liza B. Zimmerman

In the United States this beautiful and aromatic grape has often taken second place when compared to Chardonnay. In its home region of the Loire Valley of France it is top-notch and viewed as a totally different grape in so many aspects than Chardonnay in neighboring Burgundy.

Thankfully American producers are learning to respect the grape and cultivate it for what it can provide in the glass. Some great examples are being made in California. It’s a big-deal grape in South Africa and Chile and is one of the primarily blending grapes in white Bordeaux (something that few wine buyers seem to consider). Both of these countries' Sauvignon Blancs are well-worth checking out as a constantly interesting comparison to what the grape is up to in France.

Thankfully this historic grape is finally coming into the respect it deserves on its own. It tends to produce wines with fairly high acidity and major aromatic flavors and aromas: think fresh grass and cat’s pea on a gooseberry bush as we once used to say.

The Skinny on the Grape
It has long been grown in the Loire Valley and Bordeaux, as well as Northern Italian regions such as established, amazing white wine areas such as Alto Adige, Fruili and Collio. It is also cultivated over the Slovenia border as well. It can be found in Spain and is famous for identifying a uniquely intensely “grassy” wine style down under in New Zealand.

In Napa, the Mondavi family was invested in iconic bottlings of the grape, with some wood aging, and called it Fume Blanc. The first bottles were released in the 1970s and the new take on the grape continues to be a great success.

Pairing Advice
These are wines that can stand up to so many different types of foods. They are delightful as aperitifs, can go well with cheese and can take on some of the biggest main dishes in town, if they are not tomato or primarily meat driven. Their innate acidity makes them perfect for many dishes with cream or butter and they work divinely with acidic matches like ceviche and fish with a hardly helping of citrus.

They will refresh you palate at a party and your more curious guests may well want to pair them with food. Some of the best Sauvignon Blancs can be highly acidic so you will want to temper them with nibbles: ideally a little hunk of cheese or a creamy sauce.

Once you come to love these aromatic wines there will be no turning back!