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Schrader on Wine: Sauvignon Blanc for spring, summer drinking

Caroline Schrader is wine columnist for SouthtownStar newspaper Food section. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media

Caroline Schrader is the wine columnist for the SouthtownStar newspaper Food section. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: July 5, 2013 2:00PM



This time of year can be tricky when it comes to picking a wine to suit the teetering Chicago temperatures. The days can be warm; nights, cool; and often our summer weather decides to show up with little warning.

Wines that bring us from the cool breezes of spring to the warm days of summer are essential. Sauvignon Blanc, the often overlooked white wine, has lots to offer when transitioning between the two seasons; perfect for sipping with the harvest of spring vegetables, yet refreshing enough to cool the palette during the warm summer months.

Sauvignon Blanc is easily passed up in the wine aisle. Wine drinkers tend to choose sides when it comes to whites; whether it be the dry and sometimes imposing oak flavors of Chardonnay or the light and sweet characteristics of a Moscato or Riesling, the varietal is not necessarily on the radar of consumers.

Sauvignon Blanc is a good compromise. Though dry in style, it is surprisingly refreshing with its crisp citrus and often earthy flavors.

There are several “go to” regions for Sauvignon Blanc. Among the top areas are Sancerre in the Loire Valley of France, New Zealand’s Hawke’s Bay, and Napa Valley.

Different regions produce varying styles. Sancerre produces mainly unoaked and medium-bodied Sauvignon Blancs that have great acidity and fruit balance. Try sipping this with shellfish or seafood.

Sauvignon Blanc is a prominent grape in New Zealand. The varietal takes on slightly different characteristics than that of a Sancerre from France. Here, the wine’s aromas and flavors are reminiscent of freshly cut grass and stone fruit, such as apricot, peaches and nectarines.

Napa Valley has made a lasting impression on the wine industry with its Sauvignon Blanc. The varietal has had many obstacles to overcome when gaining respect as a grape varietal in the United States. This is partially due to the confusion behind the name of this grape, also known as Fume Blanc — which was introduced by Robert Mondavi back in the ’70s.

Sauvignon Blanc and Fume Blanc are used interchangeably — they are the same wine. Many California Sauvignon Blancs are full-bodied with modest oak presence and pure grapefruit and lemongrass flavors.

Sauvignon Blanc/Fume Blanc pairs extraordinarily well with foods that are aromatic, high in acidity and spicy. Try preparing a salad with green vegetables or pasta with roasted asparagus.

Below are my favorite Sauvignon Blancs from around the world.

2010 Domaine De La Croix Bouquie Touraine Sauvignon (Loire, France)

This delicate Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire is lightly acidic with well-balanced flavors of grapefruit and melon.

2012 Yarden Sauvignon Blanc (Golan Heights, Israel)

Israel’s wine region is the industry’s best-kept secret. Sauvignon Blanc was the first wine released by Yarden in 1984. This wine embodies the spirit of an Old World Sauvignon Blanc with its mild acidity and tropical fruit flavors with modest New World elements of vanilla and oak.

2011 Gerard Fiou Sancerre (Sancerre, France)

This is exactly what a Sancerre should be; acidic and well-balanced with soft apricot and citrus fruit flavors.

2009 Mission Estate Winery Sauvignon Blanc (Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand)

This is the epitome of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.  This is a full-bodied Sauvignon Blanc. Strong flavors of lemon rind, apricot and peach follow the aromas of freshly cut grass.

2010 Joseph Phelps Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc (Napa Valley, Calif.)

This wine is what you might expect from a California white varietal — full-bodied, medium oak, yet with citrus fruit flavors on the finish; nonetheless a crisp and refreshing wine for the summer.

Caroline Schrader is a wine writer and wine consultant serving the Chicago area. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter and visit www.carolineschrader.com.



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