Are you looking to improve your tasting chops, learning to speak the language you find on the backs of wine bottles or tasting notes? (Just how do you know it’s “grassy” or “tobacco” or, my favorite “briar patch?” Who eats briar patches…?) Anyway, if so, look no further than Sauvignon Blanc.
Why? Well, for instance, as Oz Clarke, in his book Grapes and Wines, says (Editorial: even if I feel that he still gives short-shrift in his newest edition of the book to some of the nice California Sauv Blancs out there, but that is a post for another time…) when looking for a good wine to use in teaching intro wine tasting courses:
“I have to have wines that sing, that shout, that roar their personalities… Many of my audience have never been asked to tell the difference between two wines before. When I say this wine tastes of nettles, or capsicum, or gooseberries it has to do just that no shillyshallying about subtlety, elegance, finesse – they’re nuances that can come later. And when I say ‘let’s have a “how to wine taste” lesson – you know, look at it, smell it, taste it – I need a wine that is totally reliable, that will always give me a painter’s palette of flavors anyone can understand as soon as they smell and taste the wine. Sauvignon Blanc. That’s my baby.”
This often holds true with Sauvignon Blanc. The variety frequently demonstrates some pretty clear, distinct flavors. Additionally, since it is often made with little or no oak, you do not have that getting in the way, frequently. That being said, its crispness and bright flavoring often allow the oak to be easily understood when it is present in what is, typically, called Fume Blanc. So, chalk up another flavor that can be identified or learned by using Sauv Blanc in this regard.
Like any workout regimen, it takes time and discipline. You can’t just hit the treadmill once and be ready to run a marathon. So, practice often and use Sauvignon Blanc as your “personal trainer,” frequently. Remember to try and “quantify” (take notes, even just mental ones) what you have tasted and learned each time. You’ll find that your skill and vocabulary will increase.
Below are some common taste and aroma descriptors for Sauvignon Blanc (remember – there is a big world of SB out there, so this list is certainly not definitive.) So, pull out a bottle of SB, smell it, taste it and see what you can learn. I recommend trying this exercise over a period of time, revisiting the wine periodically over the course of an hour or two and see what changes. Also remember, if it is chilled when you open it, the nose and flavors will change – that’s interesting to check out, too. Keep up the workout!
Common Sauvignon Blanc Aromas/Flavors:
- Apple (Green – e.g. Granny Smith)
- Bell Pepper
- Capsicum (Hot Pepper – e.g. Jalapeno)
- Citrus (Lemon, Lime)
- Freshly Cut Grass
- Green Peas
- Oak/Wood (in Fume Blancs)
- Tropical Fruit
Please note – watch this space for more tasting tips, skill development and more!
Bryan Dias, Executive Director, Summertime in a Glass