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Try sauvignon blanc in '11

OK, the New Year's resolutions are broken and the holiday decorations are packed away, so now we can make a crisp, clean start to 2011.

A nice way to do that is with crisp, clean sauvignon blanc.

Sauvignon blanc has always been a little sister to the more popular chardonnay. That's a shame, because it often goes better with food. A big, fruity chardonnay can overwhelm delicate sushi or simply prepared fish, while the light crispness of sauvignon blanc makes a nice match.

Sauvignon blanc originated in France's Loire Valley, but today it's also made in quite different styles in California, Australia, Chile, New Zealand and South Africa.

Years ago I tasted dozens of sauvignon blancs for a series of wine lessons, and came up with this range of flavors: ripe pineapple, apricot, peach, melon, fig, kiwi, fresh-cut lawn, lemon grass, grapefruit, lime, gooseberry, celery, oregano, pencil lead, gunflint and, finally, cat pee.

Yes, sauvignon blanc grapes grown in the coldest parts of the Loire definitely have something feral about them -- in the good sense, I always hasten to add.

Best consumed young, sauvignon blancs are good matches for simple fish dishes, salads, chicken or shrimp with pasta and most vegetarian dishes.

They're a fine way to make a fresh start in the new year.

Highly recommended:

*2010 Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand: full-bodied, lively and crisp; intensely fruity, with flavors of gooseberries, lemons and minerals; $25.

*2009 Brassfield Sauvignon Blanc, High Valley, Calif.,: crisp but creamy, with flavors of vanilla, green pineapples and minerals; $13.

*2009 Hanna Sauvignon Blanc, Russian River Valley: lively, crisp and light, with flavors of green apples and limes; $19.


*2009 Starborough Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough: light-bodied and very crisp, with intense flavors of lemons and herbs; $15.

*2009 Frei Brothers Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, Russian River Valley: light and crisp, with flavors of limes and cut grass; $17.

*2010 Terrapura Sauvignon Blanc, Central Valley, Chile: crisp, with intense citrus flavors, light body; $10.

*2009 Matanzas Creek Winery Sauvignon Blanc, Sonoma County (sauvignon blanc, sauvignon musque and Semillon): crisp and dry, with flavors of melons and citrus; $17.

*2009 Kendall-Jackson Sauvignon Blanc, Calif. (sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, Semillon): light and crisp, with flavors of limes and minerals; $11.

*2009 Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand: crisp and full-bodied, with intense gooseberry and mineral flavors; $23.

*2009 Bonterra Sauvignon Blanc, Lake and Mendocino Counties (sauvignon blanc, Muscat, chardonnay): crisp and light, with citrus and melon flavors; $14.