May 3, 2013 at 5:15 PM ET
There is no better wine than sauvignon blanc to usher in the fresh produce of spring, from the local spinach and asparagus now appearing at farm stands to the sweet peas and sugar snaps that will be ready in a few weeks or so.
Sauvignon, with its slight (or not so slight) herbaceous quality, complements these vegetables beautifully, whether they are served as side dishes or as centerpieces of pastas or risottos. I can taste it in my mind, for example, with sliced asparagus sautéed with pancetta, then tossed with penne or fusilli and a generous topping of Parmesan cheese.
For the most part, sauvignon blanc is made without oak. With its bold flavors it doesn’t need it. But it is not uncommon to find sauvignons that have received at least some oak aging, particularly those from California and Bordeaux, and when the wood is used judiciously it simply adds another layer without being overbearing. Sauvignons also tend to have more modest alcohol levels, usually between 13 and 14 percent, which helps make them easy to drink.
For a pleasing and straightforward style, try Rodney Strong’s 2012 “Charlotte’s Home” Sauvignon Blanc from northern Sonoma County. This well-balanced $17 wine offers subtle citrus, especially grapefruit, along with tropical fruit notes and a mineral touch on the long finish.
From Chile’s Maipo Valley, DeMartino’s 2012 Estate Sauvignon Blanc is a lovely wine made from organic grapes. Orange and lime tastes dominate with a vanilla touch and a pronounced herbal note. It has great texture in the mouth and is an altogether superb example of Chilean sauvignon. It’s also a real bargain at around $11 or so. (Imported by Opici Wines, Glen Rock, N.J.)
Another good value is from New Zealand: the 2012 Chateau Crisp Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough. This is quintessential Kiwi sauvignon with a lot of zing and typical gooseberry, grapefruit and lime notes. It’s round and easy to drink. (Imported by Truett-Hurst, Healdsburg, California.)
From the Napa Valley, Grgich Hills’ 2011 Fumé Blanc (another name for California sauvignon) is wonderfully complex with pink grapefruit, green apple and lemongrass notes, a hint of white pepper and a good deal of minerality on the finish. Made from organic and biodynamically grown grapes, it’s rich yet refreshing and, as far as California sauvignon is concerned, is pretty much in a league of its own. The suggested price is $30, but you’ll find it for less at many wine stores.