Friday, 19 July 2024

Foodie Freak: Sauvignon Blanc

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A few weeks ago, I compared Cabernet Sauvignon to the celebrity George Clooney, because both are very popular and highly versatile. When people describe Sauvignon Blanc in broad terms they usually use words like “crisp,” “clean,” “bright” and “elegant.” With those descriptors in mind then the only celebrity that comes to my mind is Nicole Kidman.


The Sauvignon Blanc grape is indigenous to southern France, where its name translates to be “Wild White,” but New Zealand has adopted it as its own and its Marlborough region is considered one of the prime Sauvignon Blanc producing regions of the world. Sauvignon Blanc wines grown in Australia, Chile, South Africa and, of course, the U.S. are also very popular.


Nicole Kidman was actually born in Hawaii as an American citizen, but also holds dual citizenship with Australia. If she was a New Zealander by heritage rather than an Aussie this article would have been so much easier to write, but, well, you have to work with what you got.


Although Nicole Kidman has been performing her whole life and starred in several productions as a teenager, she really hit the big time in 1990 with “Days of Thunder.” Sauvignon Blanc skyrocketed into popularity in the U.S. at the same time, as wine drinkers of the 1980s became tired of heavy, oaky Chardonnays and wanted something lighter and brighter.


Flavors of Sauvignon Blanc typically include notes of apricot, asparagus, bell pepper, citrus, figs, floral, geranium, gooseberry, grass, green olives, guava, herbs, honey, honeysuckle, jalapeño or green chiles, gooseberry, green peas, lemongrass, lime, mango, melon, minerals, passion fruit, pear, pineapple, tropical fruit, or weedy. Gooseberry is a predominant flavor in many New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs and a good way of differentiating them from American or French wines.


While most Americans aren’t very familiar with the flavor, gooseberries do grow wild across the U.S. Cat urine is a flavor that usually occurs if the grapes are underdeveloped or don’t get enough sunlight, and Nicole Kidman does have a cat. OK, I reached a little far for that comparison, I’ll admit.


The aging process can add additional flavors of baked apple, bay leaf, butter, cream, flint, gasoline, licorice, nutmeg, oak, peach, rosemary, sesame seed, smoke, toast, vanilla, white pepper and wood.


Finishes can be described as creamy, crisp, rich, sharp or silky, and colors can range from almost clear, to straw yellow, to light peach or light green.


Nicole Kidman is very heath conscious and eats lots of fruit, stays out of the sun and does yoga. Many Lake County Sauvignon Blancs have heavy notes of grapefruit, honeydew melons and lemongrass flavors; I’m guessing those are the smells you would get the moment you walk into Nicole Kidman’s kitchen.


Nicole Kidman once said, “I love working with people who are inspired and obsessive,” and it shows in the variety of films she has done. She has been in everything from horror, comedy, drama and even musicals, which shows her versatility as a performer.


The Sauvignon Blanc grape is the same way. It can produce a wine that can vary greatly depending on whether the juice has a lot of contact with the grape skins, if it is aged in stainless steel or oak, etc. An inspired and obsessive winemaker can create amazing differences in the final wine. There are Sauvignon Blancs out there that can be described as belonging to horror, comedy, dramas and musical genres. Like Nicole Kidman, the Sauvignon Blanc grape is very versatile.


Another aspect of Sauvignon Blanc’s versatility even earned it a distinct name. Fume Blanc is made from the same grape as the Sauvignon Blanc and is an American term invented by Charles Mondavi in 1968.


People didn’t like the sweet and strong characteristics of Sauvignon Blanc so he made a drier version and called it Fume Blanc (fume meaning smoke) in honor of the smoky look that the vineyard gets in the morning fog, and to associate it more with the drier Pouilly Fume’ wines of France.


Although Fume Blanc is not a legal definition it could be safe to say that a Fume Blanc is a dry Sauvignon Blanc. Nicole Kidman, just after marrying musician Keith Urban, was looking for a home in Tennessee and was heard to say that she liked it because she “could just be Mrs. Urban there.” A different aspect of her life gave her a new name too.


Sauvignon Blanc is best served young since it gets no benefit from aging for any period of time. No Nicole Kidman comments here, just move along.


So as you can see, the clean fresh taste yet flexibility of Sauvignon Blanc is very similar to the vibe you get from Nicole Kidman, except Sauvignon Blanc doesn’t have to explain the Tom Cruise attraction.


Lake County Sauvignon Blanc producers


Brassfield Estate Winery

Ceago Del Lago

Demeter Vineyards and Winery (limited amounts available at the Lake County Wine Studio)

Dharma Wines (Monte Lago Vineyards)

Langtry Estate and Vineyards

High Valley Vineyards

Moore Family Winery

Noggle Vineyards and Winery

Robledo Family Winery

Shannon Ridge Vineyards and Winery

Shed Horn Cellars

Six Sigma Ranch and Vineyards

Steele Wines (Shooting Star)

Villa La Brenta

Wildhurst Vineyards

Zoom Wines


Ross A. Christensen is an award-winning gardener and gourmet cook. He is the author of "Sushi A to Z, The Ultimate Guide" and is currently working on a new book. He has been a public speaker for many years and enjoys being involved in the community. Follow him on Twitter, http://twitter.com/Foodiefreak .

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