Sauvignon, both delicious and affordable – Aug. 16, 2014

By Anthony Gismondi

Another dry, hot week has me thinking about a thirst quenching glass of sauvignon blanc. Ita��s not a grape that gets a lot of love from critics and wine buyers or even consumers for that matter but much has changed in the sauvignon landscape and on a warm day or with the right food, it can be both delicious and affordable.
In the past ita��s been too grassy, too dry, too insipid and lacking concentration were among its problems in the glass cry. Add to that the elitists who simply refused to believe that anything other than sauvignon blanc from the Loire Valley is worth drinking and you see the challenge. Fast forward to 2014.
Sauvignon is clawing its way back into the mainstream due to a number of changes, none, at least in my opinion, more significant than the use of the Stelvin or screw cap closure. No longer the harbinger to cheap wine, the worlda��s most progressive sauvignon blanc producers have made the switch to screw cap to protect all the delicate, aromatic, fragrant aromas of their wines. In short, the screw cap eliminates all possible issues that stem from cork taint, a phenomenon which scalps away the flavour of fruit

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in your wine leaving the drinker to think the wine is just not that good.
To my taste, after reviewing thousands of white wines a year, the change in aromatic white wine quality has been dramatic. Even the worlda��s finest corks tend to scalp off the most delicate or most sensitive of aromas A�a�� the ones you pay all the money for a�� whereas under the screw cap that wine is free to shine.
Truth be told, it seems a big gamble to buy almost any sauvignon blanc bottled under cork unless you are looking for a flavour profile that

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is usually the polar opposite of what you would get under a screw cap. That said, many winemakers choose cork to produce a richer, broader, flavour profile with less upfront fruit, like the kind you get in a cork finished Sancerre.
No matter the closure, Ia��ve been tasting dozens of sauvignon blancs this month, and despite their varied origins, many share an affinity with one another. One can only surmise that winemaking techniques and viticulture are playing a key role worldwide in shaping the flavours of wine, and that in some cases it appears they are capable of transcending even the sacred notion of terroir.
Stylistically there are three categories to look for. The pure varietal or un-wooded style with crisp acidity; the lightly oaked versions that combine some portion of barrel fermented juice with tank fermented juice giving the wine a slightly richer and more complex flavour (my favourite by the way); and the entirely barrel fermented, toasted-oak and lees-stirred style that gives the finished wine more of a Chardonnaya��like profile in the mouth. Again the latter is likely to be finished under cork.
Gone, by-and-large, are the excessively vegetative, bell pepper and canned asparagus notes and the bitter citrus rind flavours. The grassy aromas are still present but in a much more balanced setting. The positive aspect is the predominance of fresh grapefruit, green apple, guava, kiwi and far more mineral notes. Many producers are picking the fruit at different times to combine underripe, grapes with perfectly ripe and overripe grapes to add yet another layer flavour and complexity.
In terms of what to buy. New Zealanda��s Marlborough region is a good place to look for sauvignon; the style is pungent and herbaceous. Coastal Chile, especially Casablanca, Limari, Leyda and Aconcagua Costa is where to look in the long thin country. Ia��m a big fan of South Africa sauvignon, especially from the cooler coastal Cape zones, the problem is we see so few good ones. Finally the Similkameen Valley and parts of the Okanagan Valley are giving sauvignon blanc new hope at home.
Best of all, when it comes to price and food, sauvignon blanc remains one the best values in the market and given our wealth of shellfish, greens and cheese it is about as food friendly as it gets for west coast cuisine. Finally, buy the freshest bottles, nothing older than 2012 and even better if it is from the 2013 vintage.

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