Unless you're buying New Zealand wine the problem with Sauvignon Blanc in general is you don't know what you're getting. Eh, maybe not so much with French wine. But certainly with California wine and others around the globe, it's like the wine making cultures have gotten schizophrenic when it comes to making what should be a fairly simple wine style.
When you buy New Zealand wine you know you're getting a boatload of citrus flavors in a soft round often off-dry package. It's cocktail wine. Even considering any Bordeaux blending, with French wine you're getting minerality, flowers and fruit, acidity and lightness of body. Dinner wine. The superior Chilean and South African styles also seem to have settled loosely on what their products should be. So maybe it is just California that doesn't seem to have it's act together. Which isn't to say there isn't great Sauvignon Blanc there. It's just a matter of knowing if what's in the bottle will marry well with your occasion.
Once again our inspiration for this post comes from Lettie Teague of the WSJ and she wrote twice last year about this subject. In one article she posited two modal centers in Sauvignon Blanc styles; one being the New Zealand style mentioned above, the other being that of French Sancerre, arguably the finest Sauvignon Blanc in the world. She also described modal examples of inexpensive ($10-$15) Sauvignon Blanc as "zesty and bright" while an obscenely priced example may be considered "layered and age-worthy". Eh, I don't know about that.
Sauvignon Blanc is probably my favorite white type and with my forty year industry window to take it all in, I must conclude that superior Sauvignon Blanc should reside in the $15-$25 range and should be characterized by all of those adjectives listed above except the "layered and age-worthy " business. Sauvignon Blanc should be light. The $10-$15 bottles should indeed be zesty and bright and all examples at any price should be both food-friendly and July-in-Georgia porch-sitting wine! I don't ask for much, do I?
This Thursday the 8th at 5pm Ted Fields offers us a tasting of four from his fine European portfolio including Chateau Peneture White Bordeaux, Sursum Primitivo/Montepulciano and Ujliese Negromara/Sangiovese Italian Red Blends, and Fina Spanish Red Priorat. Please join us for that one.