Enter the wine section of your favorite grocery store (I’ll assume your grocer has a good selection) and you’ll probably find the Sauvignon Blancs in at least two, maybe 3 areas. You’ve got your California SBs, European (mostly French) and Southern Hemisphere (New Zealand, Chile and South Africa). It’s hard enough to make a smart selection when the different labels are politely laid out for you in one eye-shot. But three? Oh brother…it’s OK.
Besides geography, there is a reason from a wine-geek standpoint why Sauvignon Blancs would be separated like this. Each region (California, Europe and Southern Hemisphere) broadly offers a different taste and style. They are:
California: Very fruity, and all types (citrus, tropical, pear, apple), creamy texture, strong flavor. A result of the warmer California climate and ample sunshine.
Europe: Citrus and green apple fruits. High acidity makes them tangy or even tart. Result of cooler wine regions, resulting in grapes with more acid and a little less sugar at harvest.
Southern Hemisphere: big generality, but Southern Hemisphere wine regions do a good job of putting their Sauvignon Blanc in their coolest-climate areas. The result is tangy Sauvignon Blanc with lots of citrus flavors (grapefruit and lime in particular) with noticeable green flavors: either fresh cut herbs, lemongrass or a freshly-mown lawn. The last one, cut grass, is associated with New Zealand and South Africa particularly.
If you remember one thing from this blog when you go shop, it’s this: stick to California Sauvignon Blanc if you want less acid and more fruit. Go elsewhere if you want more acid, more tang, and a seemingly drier wine. This advice will work for you 80-90% of the time.
Sauvignon Blanc recommendations
It’s so hard to recommend specific wines because who knows what the store you go to will carry? Still, I’ll give it my best shot with the names of a few California wineries I see today at my local Raley’s Supermarket in Napa (they have a great selection for a grocer, by the way, and very competitive prices). The following wineries make under $20 Sauvignon Blanc, are consistently good every vintage, and are often on the shelves of grocers with a good wine selections. Write these down: Joel Gott, Honig, Morgan, Hanna, Quivira, Route Stock, Kenwood and Elizabeth Spencer. You should be able to find at least a couple of these brands at your fine grocers or big box wine emporium.
Free wine advice from a former Napa wine shop owner & sommelier
Here’s my REAL recommendation to you.
Go to a wine shop or grocer with a smart and ample selection and buy six Sauvignon Blancs, one from each of these regions:
Loire Valley, France
Marlborough, New Zealand
Have each cost around the same amount…$15-$20/bottle for good quality. Enjoy them one at a time – get to know them. Write down your impressions as simply as you like. “Too tart” or “I get peaches” is just fine. Mark with each note you make whether you like or not (+ or – works). If you like the exercise, go back and do it again. Or go back and load up on your faves and call it a day. It’s up to you.
Here is a Sauvignon Blanc Questionnaire to help you along.
Fill out this questionnaire a few times (3-10) and look for patterns of smells, flavors, acid levels and textures you like or don’t like. Share your results with wine merchants and sommeliers and, if they’re good at their job, they will gladly recommend Sauvignon Blancs that you will like a lot!
Thanks for reading. Drink well!