Tannin Salon: Is Sauvignon Blanc Overrated?

by A.A.

by Flickr user stevegarfield (Creative Commons license)

by Flickr user stevegarfield (Creative Commons license)

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.

8 responses to “Tannin Salon: Is Sauvignon Blanc Overrated?

  1. I think a happy middle ground is a nice bottle of White Bordeaux (or a bordeaux style blend) that has at least 15%-20% Semillon. Good bottles can be had for $15ish and I think the combination is great because it still has that nice refreshing quality that Sauvignon Blanc is known for but also carries a good bit of depth, too.

  2. That Oyster Bay Sav Blanc is one of the best casual wines I know- perfectly suited for a summer BBQ.

  3. Yakima Valley and other WA wineries make very nice Sauv blancs and blends with Semillion. Prices usually under $20

  4. I don’t know much about wines but Sauv Blanc is my favorite white. Even under $15 you can have a good bottle. It’s always whimsical, floral, fruity, and fun to drink. Just what I like in a white.

  5. SB is my favorite wine. It’s the first thing I look for when I’m looking to have a glass of wine.

  6. Slate’s contrarianism is most amusing when it spins a full circle and bites at a trend before said trend has even had a chance to gain enough steam to have a backlash. Most Americans learned just last week that there’s white wine options that aren’t Chardonnay.

  7. Cab Sav is only overrated in its context: And that context is dominating the white wine market. Honestly, it’s, like, six out of ten wines in even wine specialist stores. Obviously, it’s accessible, and easy, but it’s not all there is, and yet it’s often presented as much. To those standards, it clearly can’t keep up. For seafood on a bright summer day, new season New Zealand Sav Blc is the killer, to cut through the edge of fattyness of a salmon steak with its acid, cat’s pee citrus. And that’s the image Cab Sav often takes. Good, but not the be-all-and-end-all.

  8. I guess I can’t taste depth. That’s why I don’t buy anything that costs more than$10. A good dry sauvignon blanc is wonderful on my tongue, except the ones that taste like grapefruit. Double plus ungood.

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