BY KIMBERLY FISHER
Ahh, finally we are starting to see signs of spring. The snow has melted, the grass is starting to green, and the warmer weather brings out the best in us. Shake that cabin fever and get ready for your next leg of wine exploration. Let’s talk about the three basic white grapes, but this time with a twist.
Sauvignon Blanc is a varietal that originated in the Bordeaux region in France and the name most likely gets its name from the French words Sauvage (wild) and Blanc (white). It is planted in many regions of the world and takes on many different personalities. When exploring this intriguing varietal, take the time to taste through three different regions to experience the incredible variety found in this grape. Depending on the climate, the flavors can differ from grassy, brassy herbaceous flavors – Santa Rita 120 Sauvignon Blanc (Chile) to tropical fruit and floral notes – Matanzas Creek Sauvignon Blanc, Bennett Valley, Sonoma (CA). Other parts of the world can show flavors of grapefruit, tree fruit such as peach notes and green peppers – Yealands Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand). Each will lend its own expression and take you down a path of discovery.
Chardonnay originated in the Burgundy wine region of Eastern France, but is grown everywhere. The grape is a neutral varietal but can be greatly influenced by terroir and oak. It can be a lean, mean, fighting machine meant to age such as Chardonnay based Champagne or White Burgundy. It can appear medium bodied with noticeable acidity and flavors of green apple and pear out of New Zealand – Villa Maria Chardonnay (New Zealand). In California, you can find a creamy mouth feel and a kiss of oak – Freemark Abbey Chardonnay, Napa (CA). Finally the wines of Washington State tend to be similar to California, but it emphasizes the fruit than the creaminess – Columbia Crest 2 Vines (WA).
Riesling first originated in the Rhine region in Germany and I believe it is a chameleon in terms of what it can express. It is aromatic, with flowery, perfumey notes and can have high acidity when done perfectly well. Usually pure and fresh, this varietal can take you on a roller coaster ride. In Washington State, Riesling is an easy drinker with a detectable peach and mineral component that tends to adapt to production methods done in Germany – Snoqualmie Naked Riesling (WA). In Germany, Riesling tends to have more apple and tree fruit notes with a tangy level of acidity – Schlink Haus Riesling (Germany). Monterey has an expression of cool weather allowing Riesling to sport its own character. Seaglass Riesling, Monterey (CA) is the perfect expression of cool air, minimal rainfall and a long growing season putting all the flavors in check.
Each year, some new region comes into vogue and some new grapes come to the forefront. It is worthwhile to concentrate on these three classic white grapes and by varying the regions; you can put them side by side and really taste the difference. See how each region, each producer is similar and how they can be different. The journey won’t take long, but the result is your palate will broaden greatly and you will add a wealth of knowledge for your wine vocabulary.
Kimberly Fisher is Director of Fine Wine Sales for Badger Liquor-Wine & Spirits.