Related News

Home » Feature » iDEAL

A cool white for a hot summer

DO you dread the summer heat? Fret not, as I have the perfect wine to cool even the hottest day, Sauvignon Blanc. While Sauvignon Blanc can make wines of many styles and is a successful partner in many blends, I will focus on Sauvignon Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc blends from the Old World. These wines combine the crisp, dry and refreshing characteristics that make them perfect summer wines.

Cool climate grape

It's little surprise that a cool-climate variety like Sauvignon Blanc is the perfect foil for the heat of summer. Sauvignon Blanc thrives in regions where the heat of the day is tempered by cool evenings. The cool evenings lower the temperature of the vines and grapes resulting in wines with ample acidity and fresh fruit characters. I've tasted Sauvignon Blanc wines from warmer climates and they are usually over-ripe with dull flavors and devoid of the freshness we crave in a good Sauvignon Blanc. Over the past decade, global warming has caused many winemakers to pick their Sauvignon Blanc grapes five to 10 days earlier than they traditionally harvested. This is necessary to keep the freshness in the wines and prevent over-ripeness.

Mysterious history

With DNA profiling by scientists in Europe and California we are learning the origins of many of the world's grapes. But Sauvignon Blanc still remains a bit of a mystery. The earliest records are from the 17th century in southwest France, but many believe the grape originated elsewhere centuries before. We do know that in the 18th century, Sauvignon Blanc was paired with Cabernet Franc to parent the world's most popular red wine variety Cabernet Sauvignon. In the late 19th century after the first attacks of the vine-killing phylloxera pests, Sauvignon Blanc was widely planted in the Loire Valley and became the grape of choice in many of the choicest regions like Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume.

Best regions

In France the best regions for Sauvignon Blanc are the Loire Valley, specifically Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume famed for their grassy and mineral wines, and the right bank of Bordeaux where Sauvignon Blanc is blended with Semillon to a rounder more weighty wine. The Sancerre AC surrounds Sancerre village and 13 other small villages and is located in the central-north region of the Loire Valley. In fact the best Sancerre wines are from vineyards around the villages of Bue, Chavignol, Menetreol and Verdigny and not from Sancerre village. The best wines of Sancerre are very high in acid and have mineral characteristics. The Pouilly-Fume AC in the central region of the Loire Valley with vineyards that surround seven small villages. As indicated in the name, the wines often have distinctive smoky or flinty qualities as well as the typical grassy and high-acidity characteristics of most good Sauvignon Blanc wines.

Recently, I've been impressed with Sauvignon Blanc wines from Rueda DO and Penedas DO in Spain. Ruedo is one of ten DOs in the northern region of Castilla y Leon and is best-known for their Verdejo white wines. But some producers have also started making very stylish Sauvignon Blanc wines that are some of the best-value premium white wines. In the cooler hills of Penedes, a region located southwest of Barcelona, several top producers are making impressively weighty Sauvignon Blanc wines.

Summer dishes enhancer

With all their intensity and good acidity it's little surprise that Old World Sauvignon Blancs are among the most food-friendly of all wines. This is especially true with the light and fresh dishes we savor over the summertime. The green herby, grassy and fresh acidity of these wines makes them natural partners of fresh seafood, raw or cooked. In a similar fashion to lemon, the acidity of French and Spanish Sauvignon Blanc wines awakens the freshness of seafood accentuating the natural sweetness of shellfish and fish. The grassy and herbal qualities help the wines to pair well with leafy salads while the vibrant acidity stands up to vinegar-based salad dressings. The moderate alcohol of most Sauvignon Blanc wines and their palate-refreshing tartness make them suitable for dishes containing moderately spicy chili peppers and curry sauces. More spicy dishes are the domain of the more intense and fruity New World Sauvignon Blancs especially those from New Zealand. About the only foods that definitely don't go with a good Sauvignon Blanc wine are red meats, stinky cheeses and sweet desserts.

Four Asian dishes suitable for the summertime that go well with Old World Sauvignon Blancs are protein lobster ball, prawn with mayonnaise, Japanese seasonal grilled fish and Vietnamese shrimp spring roll wrapper. In the first two cases the acidity of the wines emphasizes the freshness of the lobster and prawn while also cutting through the richness of the sauces. The simplicity of the Japanese grilled fish is augmented by the citrus fruit and mineral qualities of the wine giving greater flavor qualities to the dish. An Old World Sauvignon Blanc wine also matches beautifully with the shrimp spring roll as the citrus qualities and intensity of wine stands up to the pungent slightly sour dipping sauce and the chilies and lemons.

Domaine Fouassier, Pouilly Fume, 2008Region: Pouilly-Fume, Loire Valley, France

Variety: 100 percent Sauvignon Blanc

Aging Method/Potential: stainless steel and 6 months bottle-aging/enjoy now or within 2 years

Importer/Price: EMW /358 yuan (US$54)Sweetness:

Body: Pairing tips: allow ten minutes for nose to develop and serve at 8 degrees Celsius; pairs beautifully with light salads, seafood and white meatselegant wine with typical Pouilly-Fume character; the wine has a pale straw yellow color with greenish hints, grassy and mineral nose and plenty of citrus fruit, herbs and mineral flavors with a slight smoky finish"Marques de Riscal, Sauvignon, 2007Region: Rueda, Spain

Variety: 100 percent Sauvignon Blanc

Aging Method/Potential: 6 months in stainless steel vats/drink now or over the next 2 years.

Importer/Price: ASC / 178 yuanSweetness:


Pairing tips: Serve 8 degrees Celsius; best with salads, seafood dishes or grilled white meats legendary Rioja producer Marques de Riscal began making excellent white wines in Rueda in 1974; the wine is pale straw yellow with a vibrant floral and citrus nose and a bracingly dry attack on the palate with a clean finish"Pascal Jolivet Sancerre, 2009Region: Sancerre, Loire Valley, France

Variety: 100 percent Sauvignon Blanc

Aging Method/Potential: 8 months bottle-aging/enjoy now or within 3 years

Importer/Price: Summergate /490 yuanSweetness:

Body: Pairing tips: Serve at 8 degrees Celsius; lovely as an aperitif, matches well with shellfish, fish and white meatsthis wine features a bright light yellow color, expressive nose of citrus fruits, minerals and fresh-cut grass and lovely yellow fruit flavors and a long, clean finish"Miguel Torres, Fransola Sauvignon Blanc, 2008Region: Penedes, Spain

Variety: 95 percent Sauvignon Blanc, 5 percent Parellada

Aging Method/Potential: 50 percent in new American and French oak for 8 months/enjoy now or within next 5 years

Importer/Price: Everwines /321 yuanSweetness:

Body: Pairing tips: serve at 10-12 degrees Celsius; best with steamed or broiled lobsterthe wine has a light golden yellow color, intense aromas of yellow and tropical fruit and concentrated tropical fruit and vanilla flavors with a long pleasing acidic finish"


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend