The perfect wine for hot weather and summer foods

With our outdoor spaces now ensconced in hot weather, we find ourselves reaching more often for sauvignon blanc.  Its crisp acidity and citrus, herbaceous character make this wine a perfect foil to warm temperatures, summer produce and simple grilled dishes.

One of the most popular white wines in the United States, sauvignon blanc probably got its start in France, first in Bordeaux and then in Sancerre.  Regrettably, people often overlook Bordeaux sauvignon blanc, but the Sancerre version has been a favorite of ours for decades.  The wines are intense and backed by a mineral thread from the region’s chalk soil – in contrast to the grassier sauvignon blancs from New Zealand. Flavors of these summer wines can range from grapefruit to stone fruit.  Rarely do these wines see oak barrels, which helps to keep down their cost and preserves their fresh acidity.

Sauvignon blanc has been an inexpensive wine for some time, but today prices have risen as producers are being more selective in the quality of grapes and even adding some oak-barrel fermentation. Here is a dozen sauvignon blancs from around the world to cool you off:

  • Langlois-Chateau Sancerre 2019 ($27). One of the more complex sauvignon blancs we tasted, this delicious wine has green apple and lime aromas, apple and citrus flavors with a dash of honey to give it a long finish.
  • Dog Point Vineyard New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ($25). Citrus aromas, grapefruit and grass notes with silky texture and a dash of flint. Grapefruit and apricot flavors with a floral nose.
  • Peju Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2018 ($25). The grapes are harvested at various stages of ripeness so there is more dimension to this crisp, enjoyable sauvignon blanc. Pear and lemongrass notes mingle with lychee and citrus flavors.
  • St. Supery Dollarhide Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2018 ($35). This Napa Valley producer makes great sauvignon blanc year to year, but this single-vineyard estate version is special. Intense grapefruit and anise aromas lead into rich grapefruit and citrus flavors with tangy acidity and rich mouthfeel.
  • Turnbull Josephine Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ($50).  Turnbull has been making wine in Napa Valley for more than 40 years, but it isn’t a producer you hear much about. This dynamic sauvignon blanc from two estate vineyards bursts with floral and honeysuckle aromas, followed by apple and pear flavors. Good acidity and long in the finish, it’s a serious sauvignon blanc.
  • Flora Springs Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2018 ($30).  Varietal grapefruit and citrus flavors dominate this rich and zesty sauvignon blanc. Hints of apple and spice.
  • Nautilus Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ($18). This sauvignon blanc has the classic New Zealand zip. Good acidity, intense citrus and melon aromas, grapefruit and citrus flavors.
  • Benziger Tribute California Sauvignon Blanc 2018 ($20).  Grapefruit and pineapple notes with a healthy dose of lime and orange peel.  Smooth, delicious texture.
  • Cuvaison Methode Beton Sauvignon Blanc 2018 ($40). Fermented and aged in concrete egg-shaped vats, this wonderfully rich wine is truly unique.  Pure fruit flavors of grapefruit and lemongrass. Creamy texture and long finish.
  • Acumen PEAK Sauvignon Blanc 2018 ($75). It’s hard to justify a sauvignon blanc at this price but we’ve seen them higher than $100. Using the best barrels and lots of the Attelas Vineyard, Acumen has put complexity and sophistication into its “super sauvignon.” Good texture from lees stirring and a kiss of oak. Acumen’s 2019 Mountainside Sauvignon Blanc ($30) has the same attractive aromas and generous fruit character but not the complexity.
  • Shooting Star Lake County Sauvignon Blanc 2018 ($15). Very reasonably priced, this delicious sauvignon blanc from Lake County is cheap enough to serve to a crowd as you welcome guests back into your home. Fresh acidity with citrus, herbal and grapefruit notes.
  • La Pincoya Sauvignon Blanc Chile 2018 ($18). We liked the generous tropical fruit notes in this crisp sauvignon blanc from Chile. Touch of citrus. 

Scotch Day

Monday, July 27, will be National Scotch Day, so bottoms up. We discovered recently the GlenDronach 12-Year-Old scotch ($63) that is about as rich and smooth as you’ll find on the market today. Oak and a sherry sweetness abound with hints of white raisins and vanilla.

If scotch isn’t your thing, we recommend Woodford Reserve Limited-Edition Batch Proof Bourbon, which is bottled at a whopping 123.6 proof. Woodford blends barrels and bottling the whiskey at its actual proof and from the barrel. The Batch Proof, though, adds sweet vanilla and toasted oak to its normal array of raisin and brown sugar sweetness. Hints of clove, leather and dark chocolate on the nose with layered oak flavors.

Woodford Reserve also makes a Double-Oaked bourbon ($55) that is interesting. The first barrel has been seasoned outdoors for nine months and is completely toasted on the inside. The second barrel has been toasted for twice as long and is lightly charred.  There is more honey, vanilla and cream on this version.

Wine picks

  • Chalk Hill Chardonnay Sonoma Coast 2018 ($24). In a return from the over-oaked insanity of the recent past Chalk Hill has produced a well-balanced chardonnay that that please the palate and works well with many foods. Pear, apple notes dominate with a pleasing hint of cinnamon for interest.                                                                                         
  • Loveblock Pinot Noir Central Otego 2018 ($30). This is a great example of why consumers will start seeing more examples of excellent pinot noir from New Zealand. Rich and ripe berry flavors with a finish of tart cherries. Very food friendly with perfect palate cleansing acidity.
  • Dry Creek Vineyards Meritage 2017 ($35). The merlot (69%) in this meritage really drives the tasting experience with a soft round presence in the mouth. The four other Bordeaux varietals play out in the balance of the blend. Cherry and berry notes dominate with a nice spice element to add complexity. A terrific package!

Generic photos are selected by ThePhillyFiles and don’t indicate any preference.

Tom Marquardt (email for questions) and Patrick Darr have been writing a wine column since 1985. They’ve traveled extensively to vineyards in France, Spain, Italy, Greece and the U.S.
Tom lives in Florida with his wife, Sue, where he conducts wine tastings. Patrick is in the wine retail business in Annapolis, Md.

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