Chasing the Wild White: Sauvignon Blanc
One of the more popular white wines in the United States, Sauvignon Blanc stems from rather humble beginnings in the south of France. The green skinned grape that produces this dry, crisp white once grew like a weed all over the Bordeaux region, and it's believed that the French referred to it as sauvage, which means "wild." For many years, the wild grape was used as a component in Sauterne, a well known dessert wine, as well as other white wine blends that the French produced.
The Loire Valley bottled some of the earliest wines made exclusively from this grape, but they named it Sancerre, after the region of its origin, and it became very popular in Paris during the twentieth century. In the 1980's, New Zealand vintners shared their product with the world, and we've known this refreshing, very affordable white wine by its current name ever since. From those humble beginnings in France, the wild white grape has now found a home in many other countries, including the U.S., Italy, South Africa, and even Canada.
Because of its acidity, crisp character and "grassy" notes, Sauvignon Blanc is generally paired with cheeses, and saucy, seafood dishes such as shrimp Alfredo. It also nicely compliments a cheese fondue. It has also been said that Sauvignon Blanc is one of the few wines that pair well with sushi. This wine doesn't generally benefit from aging, so it isn't necessary to look for a specific vintage, and your personal tastes will dictate which country's product you favor. For example, a Sauvignon Blanc from Italy might be more full-bodied, with a stronger nose, while wines produced in warmer climates can sometimes develop more tropical notes and a softer finish.
- Adam Linet
Pinot Grigio: Spring in a Glass
Pinot Grigio is one variation of wine with two names, as it is also known as Pinot Gris. This white wine is unique in more ways than one and has an extremely interesting history.
Pinot Grigio was born in Burgundy, France as what is believed to be a mutation of Pinot Noir during the Middle Ages, and was originally known as Pinot Gris. It wasn't until the grape made its way to Italy that Pinot Grigio was truly born. This "early to market" wine is usually harvested young and fermented for only about four to twelve weeks. Its acidic nature, when harvested in this way, is what has endeared Pinot Grigio to many around the world, and has made it the second most popular white wine in America.
The grapes produced by Pinot Grigio/Gris vines vary greatly from other white wines. Instead of being characterized by green skin as is typical, they have a grayish blue or brownish white hue which is where the wine gets its name.
Depending on which region the grapes are grown in, the taste of each bottle or glass can be greatly affected. There are three flavor profiles Pinot Grigio can be categorized into: fruity & sweet, fruity & dry, and minerally & dry. Each is grown in different climates, fermented in different ways, and harvested at different times. However, flavors of lemons, limes, green apples, pears, melons and honeysuckle tend to be prevalent in all variations of Pinot Grigio, just in different levels of potency.
Fruity & Sweet
There is only one region, Alsace, France, where fruity & sweet Pinot Gris abounds. For this variation, the grapes are harvested late, which is what gives the wine a more intense flavor of fruit and a heavier sweetness. Thanks to the cooler climate and rich volcanic soil in Alsace, this variation is known to be richer, spicier, more velvety, and more full bodied than any other region's variation.
Fruity & Dry
The original French style, known as Pinot Gris, is typically more fruity while still maintaining its high acidity. American versions tend to be more along these lines, as California, with its intense sunshine, is one of the primary producers of wine in the United States. This variation tends to be the most common in America, and can be found even on supermarket shelves. Don't reach for the cheapest bottle, however, as those tend to be overtly sweet and lack the characteristic acidity and dryness.
Minerally & Dry
For a drier, more mineral taste, Italian Pinot Grigio is the way to go. The more mountainous region and lower levels of sunshine yield a brilliant, more acidic wine that's reminiscent of fresh lemonade on a hot summer's day. To achieve the mineral taste that Italian Pinot Grigio is well known for, the wine is fermented in stainless steel barrels and bottled extremely young.
Food to Pair With
- Fresh vegetables pair well with the crispness Pinot Grigio is known for.
- White and raw fish are great to pair with a glass of Pinot Grigio as the fresh, silky taste compliments each sip to perfection.
- Sushi, ceviche, and tilapia with cream sauce are excellent dishes to enjoy with a glass of Pinot Grigio, since the fresher herbs compliment the bright acidic notes to perfection.
- A good rule of thumb when it comes to Pinot Grigio is to steer clear of overly spicy dishes, since there isn't enough sweetness to knock out the heat.
If a bright, young wine is what you crave, check out Porer Alois Lageder Pinot Grigio from Italy. It's the perfect combination of slightly sweet fruity notes combined with the mineral harmony Italian Pinot Grigio is well known for. For a slightly more French style which surprisingly still hails from Italy, try Ca Donini Pinot Grigio with its notes of ripe pears and bright acidity. Grab a bottle today, and enjoy spring in a glass.
- Adam Linet
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