Sauvignon Blancs to pair with oysters and more

October 22, 2018

Tim wanted to know how to decide which wine is worth aging. The answer is very complex, and many reading here may not be interested. For those who are, a concise, easy-to-read, comprehensive article by Nova McCune Cadamatre in Snooth did a terrific job answering this question:

It’s oyster time, and few wines complement oysters as well as Sauvignon Blanc. Be careful, though, as SB is far more terroir-driven than many of its clonal brothers and sisters. Following is a broad-brush look. SBs from Cali are acid bright, usually with melon, eucalyptus (mint) and lightly herbal aromas. The hotter locales tend toward tropical fruit. Those from Chile often show tropical fruit notes with herbaceous nuance. Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire River valley in France, such as Pouilly-Fumé and Sancerre, are dry, herbaceous whites with full body. Both Cali and French SBs often use oak and sur lie aging to enhance body and provide barrel flavors. We already discussed the use of SB in Bordeaux at great length over the past few weeks. As much as I want to push U.S. wines, it is in New Zealand that I find the most diverse and many of the best inexpensive representations of SB. The use of stainless fermentation preserves the aromatics and freshness of flavors that may range from herbal to gooseberry (gooseberry: spiny Eurasian shrub with greenish purple-tinged flowers and ovoid yellow-green or red-purple berries that are striped and look like tiny watermelons) to tropical fruit.

Some of my top-value SBs follow. From Paso Robles, Calif., Robert Hall Winery SB 2016, 90 McD under $16, is smooth, crisp and vivacious. No oak; look for melon, banana and grapefruit aromas, green apple and lemon curd on the palate. Terrific fruit gives this completely dry wine a sweet profile. We normally think of Spottswoode for  Cabs. Their 2016 SB is a bit upscale at $39 but worthwhile; it shows sliced green apple, lemon and mineral flavors, medium to full body with bright acidity. My favorite quote from Spottswoode, “This St. Helena estate was revived because a doctor wanted to drive a tractor.” From Oregon’s Rogue Valley comes 2Hawk SB 2016, 89 McD under $18. Pale straw with a complex bouquet of banana, basil, lily and roast nuts. Resolves on the medium palate to banana, pineapple, nut and grapefruit flavors supported by mouthwatering acidity and smooth tannins. This is better suited for spicy curries and Thai food. From NZ, Marlborough Vines 2018 costs $12. Exhibits gooseberry and citrus characteristics with crisp, refreshing acidity. Nicely balanced with long, clean finish. Attention Walmart shoppers! Saw Waikiwi Bay Marlborough SB for $6.95. Had to give it a try, and happy I did. Pale straw-colored, grassy citrus aromas evolved to mineral, grapefruit, almond and green apple flavors. A bit light-bodied but the finish was complex and clean with a lemon, lime, grapefruit after-flavor; 87 with 2 price points. A lot of wine for its price.

How about three decent reds for Halloween? Viña San Pedro Gato Negro has a picture of a black cat on its label. It produces a full range of wines: Cab, PN, Carmenere, Chard, SB, Moscato, Pinot Grigio, and a sparkler in Chile’s Central Valley and a Malbec from San Carlos, Argentina. The price range on the Central Valley is $5-$7. Barbara and I sampled the PN 2016, Cab 2017 and Merlot 2017. All were fairly priced and a good value, rating 86-87. The Uco Valley Argentina Malbec 2016 was a particularly good value at $70/case or roughly $7/bottle, 87 McD. Malolactic fermentation, partially in oak for three months, look for deep red with violet tints; blackberry, blueberry and plum aromas plus proper acidity and sweet tannins to balance the fruit. Clean, long finish, another good value here. Those who want to adventure upscale can search out a Viña San Pedro Cabo de Hornos Special Reserve 2012. A blend of 80 percent Cab, 5 Malbec and 15 Syrah, it is a solid 92 points. Very dark-colored with coffee, black pepper, smoky nose; well structured with a complex flavor profile. Blackberry, plums, rhubarb and barrel spices coat the palate and continue through the long finish. Complements barbecued, roasted or charbroiled game and beef.

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