At a recent dinner with friends, someone mentioned that they enjoy Sauvignon Blanc and asked for recommendations of new wines they might like. I loved the question because dry, crisp, light-bodied styles, similar to Sauvignon Blanc, are bountiful around the world and many of my favorite wines have yet to gain the recognition they deserve. So, if you like Sauvignon Blanc, you’ll love the following selections.
Cool climates tend to nurture the traits that Sauvignon Blanc lovers appreciate: a light body, bright acidity, and low levels of residual sugar. The moderate temperatures of Rias Baixas, in northwestern Spain, foster these qualities in its native grape called “Albariño.” The coast in this area is remarkably green and lush in comparison with the rest of Spain. Chilly Atlantic winds cool the vineyards, yielding bright, fresh flavors of tropical fruit and citrus, followed by a lean, mineral-infused finish. The tropical notes on the nose might suggest sweetness – but don’t be fooled – the palate is nearly always dry. Albariño pairs beautifully with seafood, salads, and dishes with a tropical fruit or citrus-based dressing or sauce.
This appealing white grape can’t boast the popularity of its more famous cousins, Pinot Noir and Pinot Grigio, but it still offers delicious orchard fruit flavors, intense aromas, and a food-friendly combination of mouthwatering acidity and minerality. The best Pinot Blanc arguably comes from Alsace in France, but excellent examples are also available from the United States and Italy – where it’s known as “Pinot Bianco.” A bottle of Pinot Bianco makes a great gift for Sauvignon Blanc fans who will love its flavor and enjoy tasting something new.
Astute Sauvignon Blanc drinkers are already suspicious as they begin reading this paragraph: “wait, isn’t Chablis made from Chardonnay?” True, Chablis is Chardonnay – but hear me out. This Chardonnay is from the northernmost portion of the Burgundy region in France. In fact, Chablis is one of the coolest regions dedicated to Chardonnay in the world. As already noted, cooler areas produce wines that are light, crisp, and dry, so Chablis has little in common with the buttery, oaky California Chardonnay you may have had in the past. If you love Sauvignon Blanc but want to branch out, or if you’re looking for something to pair with chicken or lobster, you should give Chablis a try.
My favorite white Italian wine might be Verdicchio, which is the name of a grape found mainly in the central-eastern province of Marche (“MARK-ay”). There are two primary sources for Verdicchio in the Marche: Castelli di Jesi and Matelica. Both are wonderful, but Castelli di Jesi is much larger and therefore more plentiful and easier to find. Verdicchio is light and fresh when young, with notes of soft yellow apple, quince, and lemon. As it ages, Verdicchio takes on a slightly herbal character and darker color. Most examples are likely to appeal to those who enjoy French Sauvignon Blanc. Verdicchio is seldom as fruity as New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc but is still stylistically similar enough to be worth a taste.
The white wines of Austria have gained prestige in recent years due to their subtle elegance and versatility with food pairing. The most famous Austrian grape, Grüner Veltliner, can showcase amazing complexity with notes of tart pear, lime, kiwi fruit, and a slight salinity. Drink Grüner Veltliner at the beginning of a meal as an aperitif or with light dishes like shellfish or steamed vegetables. Your friends will be intrigued by this unusual wine and delighted by its flavors and style – especially if they are fans of Sauvignon Blanc.