Sunday, April 25, 2010

Wine of the Week- Provenance Sauvignon Blanc

I made a comment last week about the Alice White Lexia never being mistaken for a wine on the Wine Spectator Top 100. So, in fairness, I thought I'd talk about one that was, number 56 to be exact, the '07 Provenance Sauvignon Blanc from Rutherford in the Napa Valley.

I always think of Sauvignon Blanc as the "green" grape-- green apples, green grapes, green herbs and a perhaps just a bit of green bell pepper. Aromas of lime, kiwi, honeydew, and even non-green tropical fruits like guava, papaya, and passion fruits make some Sauvignon Blanc-based wines -- especially those from New Zealand and South Africa -- smell and taste like fruit salad in a glass.
In addition to the refreshing wines that highlight this grape's greenness, there are a few other main styles of Sauvignon Blanc, but they seem to basically gravitate either toward or away from the style of Chardonnay.
Classic Old World versions, from the Loire Valley of France, are far less obviously fruity and more grassy and herbaceous, with a high degree of minerality, chalk and limestone.
From California, you may find Sauvignon Blancs labeled as "Fumé Blanc." In the late 1960s, Robert Mondavi coined this name for a style of Sauvignon Blanc that is fermented and aged in oak barrells, much less "green" than classic Sauvignon Blanc produced in stainless steel tanks. Today, Fumé Blanc may or may not be oaked, but the name usually means that the wine is richer and fuller, riper and less acidic than a wine labeled "Sauvignon Blanc." Some people consider the Fumé Blanc style more sophisticated, but there's plenty of room for both interpretations, especially depending on the food to be paired with it.
And finally, in Bordeaux, France, Sauvignon Blanc is often blended with another grape, Sémillon, to produce a distinctive style of white wine. As Sémillon has nutty and honeyed characteristics, white Bordeaux of this blend tend to be medium-to full-bodied and more restrained in their acidity and fruit flavors. The classic versions come from the districts of Graves.

This is the style that our wine of the week most closely resembles. About 10% Semillon and some sur lees aging( left for a time on the spent yeast cells) takes the edge off of the grassiness, adds a richness and a softer mouth-feel, and slides it more to the Chardonnay side of the spectrum. Sauvignon Blanc pairs beautifully with seafood. Rather than the rich, oaky, vanilla flavors of Chardonnay that can overwhelm simpler foods, the refreshing, straightforward fruity flavors of Sauvignon Blanc are just the thing for fish -- especially when prepared with bright, acidic ingredients, like ceviche or grilled tuna with a tomatillo salsa.

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