Many of the Anything But Chardonnay (ABC) persuasion turn to Sauvignon Blanc, and well they should. The grape is made into many different and attractive styles to suit most palates. It matches well with foods, from a plate of mixed cheeses (goat, cow, sheep) to appetizers (calamari, charcuterie, and crab cakes) to seafood and shellfish entrees usually reserved for Chardonnay.

Exploring the world of Sauvignon Blanc will test your senses and give you a new vocabulary for describing dry white wines. In reading tasting notes from Masters of Wine and Master Sommeliers in ranking wines in different competitions and for publications, I found this array of comparisons in how judges described the aromas: lemon, grapefruit and wet pavement; grapefruit pith; lemon pith and yellow herbs; green apple, white flowers; lemon and passion fruit; green apple and guava; candied green apple and passion fruit; herbaceous, grass, mint and eucalyptus; green herbs and rosemary flowers; lovely vegetal aromas including sweet peas, asparagus, and peppers.

The judges reported these impressions on the palate: juicy acidity, tart, fresh, prickly, spherical, and a sense of movement from tongue to cheeks (but balanced by the depth of fruit in the aftertaste). Oak aging by winemakers in some regions adds other levels of complexity. The best wines show different distinctive characteristics, most notably bright acidity, hints of stone fruit, key lime, gooseberry, passion fruit, grapefruit, threads of chalk and flint in wines from some appellations, hints of salinity in others, and a round lushness from those blended with Semillon and oak-aged.

Merry Edwards

The good news is that you can find an amazing array of quality Sauvignon Blanc wines at reasonable prices that match well with Spring and Summer fare and fun and can be described in one word – tasty. Here is a short road map for your tasting pleasures.

The French Connection

France is the birthplace of Sauvignon Blanc and the number one producer. The grape has thrived for centuries in the Loire Valley, in Sancerre, Pouilly-Fumé, Reuilly, Menetou-Salon, Quincy, and Touraine.

In Bordeaux, in Graves and the Pessac-Léognan appellations, winemakers often blend Semillon into their Sauvignon Blanc wines to add texture, then add other nuances with oak aging.

New Zealand Rising

New Zealand is second in global production. It has become synonymous with Sauvignon Blanc, most notably for the distinct wines from the Marlborough region on the South Island.

Wines from Hawke’s Bay on the North Island tend to be more like white Bordeaux, with good fruit on the nose and hints of oak aging, with a semi-crisp, fruity finish. We also enjoy Sauvignon Blanc wines from the southeast corner of the North Island in Martinborough, an exemplary region for Pinot Noir.

Cool Valleys in Chile

Chile, third in global production, has cooler vineyard sites in the San Antonio and Casablanca Valleys. Their wines tend to have citrus and herbaceous character in the nose and high acidity. Still, they can be riper, rounder, and fruitier on the finish, similar to some regions in California.

South Africa, fifth in production, produces Sauvignon Blanc in various styles. I haven’t tasted any recently but from a previous visit and trade tastings in the U.S. I found the best examples coming from the wine regions around Cape Town, including Stellenbosch and Parl.

California Connections

In the United States, fourth in production, California leads the way (Napa, Sonoma, Lake, and Mendocino Counties), followed by Washington and Oregon.

California’s Sauvignons continue to improve as winemakers hone their styles, drawing increased raves from wine lovers posting notes on Cellar Tracker and other wine databases.

Spottswoode Vineyard

Some of our recent discoveries range from tighter, crisper, citrus, and herbal wines more toward the New Zealand end of the flavor spectrum to those given more time fermenting on the lees and having varying degrees of oak aging, sometimes blended with Semillon, to create something lusher and more reminiscent of a good Graves or Pessac-Leognan wine.

Ten for Spring and Summer Sipping

The following wines were selected from more than 50 tasted in the past six months to offer a range of values, styles, and quality. Most are in wide distribution. Newer vintages may be out for some, which is fine. These wineries can be relied on for consistency over the years. The list is from lowest to highest price:

  • $13 value (Costco) Marlborough, NZ, 2022 Allan Scott Sauvignon Blanc. Sharp mid-green gold; citrus, grapefruit, herbaceous, classic Marlborough nose; mid+ acids; mid-body; semi-long, crisp, citrus finish. 15.5 UC Davis scale; 89 other scales.
  • Good $16 California value Sauvignon Blanc 2022 Hanna Russian River Valley (Sonoma). Light green-straw gold; herbaceous, boxwood, light citrus nose; mid acids, fruit, alcohol (13.2); balanced, semi-long, crisp, citrus finish. 16/90.
  • $18 value Graves Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon blend 2022 Denis Dubourdieu Sharp, mid-green-gold; light herbaceous, lime, boxwood nose; mid acids; mid depth; easy sipping, semi-short, crisp citric finish. 15.5/89.
  • Always tasty value from Martinborough (not Marlborough), NZ 2022 Craggy Range Sauvignon Blanc Single Vineyard Te Muna Road Vineyard ($20 Costco). Mid-straw gold; citrus, grapefruit, boxwood nose; mid-plus acids; mid-body; mid-long citrus finish, balanced (12.5 alc.). 16/90.
  • $22 value Marlborough, NZ, 2023 Palliser Estate Sauvignon Blanc. Pale straw gold; sharp grapefruit nose; herbaceous, lime zest nose; mid-plus acids; light-mid body (12.5 alc.); semi-long, crisp, citric finish. 15.5/89.
  • $25 Calif. Sauvignon Blanc 2022 Duckhorn Vineyards North Coast. Light-mid straw gold, viscous (14.1 alc.); new-mown hay, herbaceous, citrus nose; low-mid acids; mid-deep lusher style; long round semi-crisp finish. 16-16.5/90-91.
  • Loire value 2021 Alphonse Mellot Sancerre La Moussière ($27). Mid-straw gold, viscous (13.0 alc.); herbaceous, citrus, boxwood Sauvignon Blanc nose; mid+ acids; mid-deep fruit; semi-long, balanced, stylish finish. 16.5/91.
  • Russian River Valley, Sonoma, 2022 Merry Edwards Sauvignon Blanc ($38 local merchant). Mid-straw gold; boxwood, new mown hay, citrus nose; low-mid acids; mid-body; good fruit; balanced; long semi-lush finish. 16.5-17/91-92.
  • Fine Napa Sauvignon Blanc 2021 Eisele Vineyard Altagracia ($40). Sharp mid-gold, viscous (14.3 alc.); boxwood, citrus, herbaceous, lime zest nose; low-mid acids; mid-full body; good extract; long unctuous semi-lush finish. 16.5/91.
  • $45 Napa (43%) and Sonoma (57%) 2022 Spottswoode Sauvignon Blanc. Citrus, lime, boxwood, herbaceous nose; mid+acids; mid-full body; semi-crisp, slightly tart citrus finish. 16.5/91.