Wine Cellar: White now

Light in body, dry, and very crisp, Sauvignon Blanc offers an astonishing variety of flavors.

Sauvignon Blanc 88 (photo credit: )
Sauvignon Blanc 88
(photo credit: )
While last week's column focused on Viognier and Gewurztraminer, next in line for white wines - and perfectly appropriate for Shavuot - is Sauvignon Blanc. Light in body, dry, and very crisp, Sauvignon Blanc offers an astonishing variety of flavors. It's one of the most versatile white wines and a great companion for all kinds of food, making it a big winner for chefs around the world. Sauvignon Blanc is strongly influenced by where and how it's grown. World wine producing regions like Australia, New Zealand and South America are producing very nice Sauvignon Blancs, but the regions of Bordeaux and the Loire Valley in France are the originators of this quality grape. Both these appellations in France are found by rivers and set on a series of limestone hills, both of which tremendously affect the Sauvignon Blanc's taste. A famous winemaker once told me to put my tongue to a stone if I want to get an idea of how the local soil affects the wine. Trust me, it might clear things up for you as well. The process of making Sauvignon Blanc is a simple one compared to making red wines. It is generally fermented in stainless steel tanks. In order to retain the grape's fruitiness, it is fermented at low temperatures, which maximizes its fruity potential. The wine is then refined, filtered and bottled within a few months of fermentation. Sauvignon Blanc proves that wine doesn't have to be complicated to be good. It's a lively, fun wine that you can sip as an aperitif or drink with meals. It should be drunk young to capture the true acidity and fruit flavors, although many Sauvignon Blanc wines can live for years with proper cellaring. FOR A LONG TIME Sauvignon Blanc in Israel was either under-ripe or over made. It tasted green, or it tasted cooked. Now the growers are focusing on balanced ripeness in cool-climate vineyards, and the winemakers are using a light touch in the winery. Here are a few fine examples, followed with the usual suspect of whites - Chardonnay. Lehaim, and hag sameah. Binyamina, Sauvignon Blanc, Special Reserve, 2006: A delightful, cool climate, un-oaked alternative to Chardonnay. Think peaches, melons and citrus fruits. With its fresh acidity this wine will go with almost anything except the heartiest red meat dishes. NIS 45 Yatir, Sauvignon Blanc, 2006: With winemaker Eran Goldwasser in charge here, it's not surprising this is a finely crafted wine. It has fresh citrus aromas and a subtle layer of acidity over crisp, full, grassy flavors. The longer it sits on the table, the better and more complex it gets. It's delicious and definitely food oriented. NIS 59 Carmel, Chardonnay-Sauvignon, Private Collection, 2006: A blend of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc grapes from vineyards at the Upper Galilee. Fresh, lively, and inexpensive white. The bright fruit flavors make it appealing as an aperitif, and its crispness make it food-friendly too. NIS 39 THE KING OF WHITE GRAPES Chardonnay has probably found its way into almost every wine drinker's glass at some time or another. This is because it is planted almost everywhere wine grapes can be grown, does well in different climates and has a history going back about 2000 years in France. Odem Mountain, Chardonnay, Volcanic, 2006: Made of 100% Chardonnay grapes hand-picked at a vineyard in the Ela Valley, this wine shows the perfect balance between juicy tropical fruit and citrus acidity. It would nicely accompany rich meaty dishes, but will also work marvelously with any kind of fruit dessert and even blue cheese. NIS 75 (not kosher) Golan Heights, Yarden Katzrin Chardonnay, 2004: One of the best Chardonnays of this or any vintage, a brilliant wine with great style and flair. Ripe fruit and a proportion of barrel fermentation gives it a creamy texture, flavors of lemon, pears and just a pinch of tropical fruits and fresh herbs. As good as it is now, its acidity should hold up well over the next 10 years. NIS 95.