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Weekend wines: Sauvignon blanc offers versatility under $15

Chardonnay may be the most popular white wine, but when it comes to a white you can depend on to pair well with a variety of foods, I almost always turn to sauvignon blanc, especially for options under $15. Unlike chardonnay, it’s downright easy to find delicious, complex and inexpensive sauvignons, whether from New Zealand, France, California, Austria or South America, to name just some of the
Edward Deitch
Today

Chardonnay may be the most popular white wine, but when it comes to a white you can depend on to pair well with a variety of foods, I almost always turn to sauvignon blanc, especially for options under $15. Unlike chardonnay, it’s downright easy to find delicious, complex and inexpensive sauvignons, whether from New Zealand, France, California, Austria or South America, to name just some of the regions where sauvignon thrives.

For me, sauvignon blanc is the most versatile popular white wine, a utility infielder, usually lean (with moderate levels of alcohol) and typically made without aging in oak. Fish, shellfish, chicken, pork, veal, sushi, vegetable dishes – there’s hardly a non-red meat dish I can’t envision with sauvignon. Don’t get me wrong. I love chardonnay, especially when it has lively acidity, some minerality and a subtle oak presence. Unfortunately, that combination is hard to find in lower-priced wines.

For everyday drinking, I often turn to sauvignon blanc and have been tasting some outstanding new releases. From Argentina, Valentín Bianchi’s 2010 Sauvignon Blanc from the Mendoza region is at once refreshing and round, with tastes of Meyer lemon, lime peel, a subtle herb note and minerals that linger on its long finish. This $13 wine was superb with pork chops seared in a cast-iron skillet. When the chops were done, I deglazed the pan with a splash of the wine, then added some fresh chopped sage and a little butter to make a delicious sauce. Sautéed broccoli rabe was the perfect accompaniment, and also worked well with this wine. (Wine received as a press sample.)

Another outstanding sauvignon is from France’s Loire Valley, Francois Chidaine’s 2010 Touraine, which is a real bargain at $11. Touraine is a large area that doesn’t have the stature of Sancerre or Pouilly-Fumé, the Loire’s two greatest sauvignon blanc appellations. But Touraine is currently getting a marketing push, and for good reason. The better wines are great values. Chidaine’s Touraine has notes of green apple, gooseberry and lime with lots of minerals and a nice creaminess on the finish. Chidaine, by the way, is better known for producing some of the Loire Valley’s top chenin blancs in the Montlouis and Vouvray appellations. Imported by Winebow Inc., New York.

Which white wines do it for you? Let me know what you think of sauvignon blanc versus chardonnay or other white varieties.

Edward Deitch is a James Beard Award-winning wine critic. Find many more of his wine reviews and commentary on his blog, Vint-ed.com, and follow him on Twitter.

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