Those born after the turn of this century may not recognize the phrase popularized by wine drinkers during the 1990s – “Anything But Chardonnay” – usually shortened to just “ABC”. The popularity of “a glass of Chardonnay, please” at wine bars even led to the word “ubiquitous” becoming the ubiquitous adjective used to describe Chardonnay.
Today, if I look at the wine samples I receive, the most-frequent variety, red or white, is not Chardonnay but Sauvignon Blanc. It is even more popular than rosés. Although I’m not ready to launch an “ABSB” campaign, I must say that I’m somewhat tired of tart, green-fruited Sauvignons trying to capture the ubiquity of Marlborough Sauvignon Blancs, especially at the entry-level price.
Robert Mondavi, with his coinage of Sauvignon Blanc as “Fume Blanc,” helped start drinkers looking at Sauvignon Blanc as an alternative to Chardonnay at a time when many California wineries had Chenin Blanc in that position. New Zealand, once known for its French-American hybrid grapes-into-wine, if it was known for wine at all, did a masterful job of claiming Sauvignon Blanc as its grape, particularly in Marlborough and, to a lesser extent, Martinborough.
Now, young drinkers discovering the fountainhead regions of Sauvignon Blanc – Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé in the Loire and simply Blanc in Bordeaux, where it is generally blended with Semillon – to discover more about the grape. Meanwhile, Sauvignon Blanc is second only to Chardonnay as a fine-wine grape grown world-wide.
We feature some in this edition, but don’t miss two outstanding Napa reds, and be certain to finish off with a splash of rum.
2022 Ferrari-Carano North Coast Fume Blanc ($14) – One of the few Sauvignon Blancs still using the “Fume” designation, this is a more-subtle Sauvignon with floral aromas followed by flavors of creamy key lime and gooseberries.
2022 Mud House Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc ($14) – Snappy tart flavors of lime and kiwi with some green herbal notes.
2022 Mahi Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc ($19) – Very textured and full-bodied with lovely green-fruit and herbal flavors and a touch of bitters.
2021 Ferrari-Carano Sonoma County Chardonnay ($20) – Loads of honey and vanilla flavors, smooth-bodied with some balancing bitters around the edges.
2022 Chalk Hill Estate Chalk Hill Sauvignon Blanc ($21) – A mellow Sauvignon with a pleasant kick in the finish.
NV Domaine Chandon California Brut Rosé ($21) – Full-bodied with cherry and candied fruit, some shortbread crumbs, nice metallic minerality and lots of crisp bubbles.
2022 Santa Julia “La Vaquita” Mendoza Red Wine ($18) – Lively, light, with tart berry flavors – like a Sauvignon Blanc for red wine drinkers.
2021 Chalk Hill Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($21) – Very smooth with lovely cola and cherry flavors – not quite elegant, but close.
2021 Renacer “Punto Final” Argentina Cabernet Franc ($27) – Lightly pungent aromas, a lighter-bodied big red wine with flavors of dark raspberries and with lots of acidity and dusty tannins.
2020 Arkenstone “NVD” Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($125) – Lovely aromas of fruit and oak – like snuggling into a familiar, cozy room – with luscious flavors of plums and dark cherries, some creaminess and bitters around the edges – outstanding.
2020 Arkenstone Howell Mountain Estate Red Wine ($225) – Another outstanding wine – beautiful and mellow, with Margaux-like flavors of creamy berries and hints of white chocolate with well-integrated wood notes, a few dusty tannins and a long closing. Delicious now, better with a few more years of aging.
3 Badge “Kirk and Sweeney” Gran Reserva Dominican Rum ($39) – Hints of juniper and other botanicals among the traditional molasses flavors, on the edge of darkness but hanging on with a caramel finish. 40% ABV. Enjoyable drinking.
Prices listed are generally SRP or from wine-searcher.com. As more wineries are now shipping direct-to-consumer, check the winery website if you can’t find a bottle in your retail store.