I usually don’t even want to cook with it. We’ve had them from California, New Zealand, Australia; it doesn’t matter, we just don’t like them. We’ve been told the Australians even describe New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, usually thought of as the best in the world, as “Cat pee on a gooseberry bush”. Doesn’t that sound appealing? As far as I’m concerned its one redeeming characteristic is that it’s a parent of Cabernet Sauvignon – a bad parent who happened to have a good kid.
Sauvignon Blancs are often described as vegetative or grassy unless perfectly made (apparently something that happens far too infrequently). If I want something that tastes like grass, I’ll drink bad iced tea. Why the hell would any one want to drink something like that when even the old stand bys, Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio (or Gris if you prefer) are more appealing?
Unfortunately…now that I’ve really warmed up, I have to temper the rant slightly. As of November 10th, 2012, a date that will surely live in infamy, we found a Sauvignon Blanc that we actually liked. It was a cloudy, drizzly, ugly day (totally appropriate for such a somber event) and we were wine tasting at the Madera County Winery, Westbrook Wine Farm. We dutifully tried the proffered Sauvignon Blanc, much the way a five year old would enjoy taking medicine. This is really hard to say for some one whom has been so about vocal Sauvignon Blanc having no redeeming qualities. OK, it was good, really good in fact. We actually bought one. After talking to the winemaker Ray, we decided that perhaps the grape could make a good wine if all the conditions were perfect. Based on the samples we’ve had however, that only seems to happen far too infrequently. So now we had to redo the entire rant blog post (thanks a million Ray…it’s not like we had anything better to do).
Apparently Sauvignon Blanc can be worthwhile if made perfectly. Equally apparent however, there are not enough vineyard managers that produce sufficient quality fruit and minority of winemakers who have an idea what to do with it, even if it is a good fruit. With that in mind, we’ve changed our rant to hopefully provide some advice for those who feel obligated to try what they really shouldn’t.
1) If you sound like a moose in heat when trying to sing, don’t do Karaoke.
2) If you dance like some who is having a seizure, don’t try (I can relate to this one by the way).
3) If you burn water when trying to cook, just order takeout. Don’t try to become an Iron Chef.
4) If you can’t make a good Sauvignon Blanc, don’t try. Just don’t. Walk away from the grapes, pour yourself a glass of Cabernet or Pinot and let the fit pass. That should eliminate about 98% of them.
Wow..It feels good to have that out of my system! If you are looking for something a little different, Try one of these alternatives that are just waiting for their day in the sun (so to speak).
Alternatives to the dreaded Sauvignon Blanc
Albarino from Spain is refreshing, a little spicy and thankfully doesn’t taste like some one’s lawn mower bag. With the Spanish economy in shambles, predictions are that this wine will significantly drop in price next year. There are a few produced in the US as well. Cru Wine Company in Madera County makes one.
Old world style Riesling’s are considered the king of whites by most Sommeliers but get precious little play here because our history of making them is spotty at best (actually, with a few exceptions, horrific is a more apt description). Give one of the European ones a try and if you like it, try to find a dry Riesling in your area (Westbrook Wine Farm, mentioned earlier in this post, does make a good one by the way).
Fiano from Southern Italy is a little sweet but with just enough acid to not come across as overly sweet. It’s another interesting wine that would do well in California’s warm climate and is worth a shot if you’ve never had one. The Santa Clara County Winery, Solis is one of the few that makes Fiano.
Roussanne, one of the Rhone’s best white grapes is quite interesting but at least there’s a reason why it’s not as prevalent. It’s tough to grow and make any money with it. No one grows Roussanne to get rich.
Even Viognier has some appealing complexity assuming the wine maker hasn’t made it to hit you in the head with that floral aroma.
Of course, usually despising the Sauvignon Blanc as we do, we tend to avoid it the way we would try and avoid a root canal (in all likelihood, the root canal would be less painful though). We’re not exposed to it other than when we visit a winery and they are pouring one. We’ll dutifully try it and every once in a while; we’ll stumble on one that actually isn’t bad. Could we learn to like it? The jury is still out and we’re willing to try but…..