Slate’s insistence on publishing articles that Challenge the Conventional Wisdom is, let’s face it, really annoying. Sometimes you just want to take things at face value. Sometimes you don’t want to poke your nose into a trend or idea to see if it’s really noteworthy or true. It’s all so tiresome. So when I saw Eric Asimov at the Pour blog link to Mike Steinberger’s piece on why Sauvignon Blanc is overrated, I was initially content to let Asimov refute Steinberger’s thesis.
I had a knee-jerk reaction to Steinberger’s contention, because, well, I think Sauvignon Blanc is great. It’s generally lively, refreshing, goes well with a lot of different foods, and has a wide range of interesting flavors depending on whether you get it from New Zealand, California, Chile, or France. For the most part, it’s a terrific value, with good bottles running under $25 as a rule of thumb. In summertime, I drink Sauvignon Blanc like it’s my job (oh, if only): with salads, with goat cheese and fresh baguette, with grilled chicken — it’s versatile, see.
But Steinberger may actually be a little bit right: Sauvignon Blanc rarely gives you the kind of depth and complexity that a good white Burgundy can. It doesn’t stay with you. It doesn’t linger in the glass and make you want to peel back the layers of scent and flavor. Or, to be more charitable, it’s easy (though expensive) to find a white Burgundy that you’ll remember a year or two from now. It’s harder to do with Sauvignon Blanc, though I have had a handful of pretty outstanding Sancerres.
Does this even matter, though? No one I know can afford a top-flight white Burgundy from a good vintage anyway. Sauvignon Blanc is good, it’s reasonably priced, and I feel no shame diving into a bottle or two of the stuff on a warm summer evening. Nor should you.