The Second Floor Wine Tasting Group

April 25, 2004

We gathered at Peter's and tasted Sauvignon Blancs from around the world.

The Wines

  1. 2002 Fume Blanc (Columbia Valley, Washington, U.S.) by Hogue - $8
  2. 2002 Sauvignon "Clos Roche Blanche" (Touraine, Loire, France) by Roussel et Barrouillet - $10
  3. 2003 Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough, New Zeland) by Babich - $13
  4. 2002 Sauvignon Blanc "Dog Point" (Marlborough, New Zeland) by Goldwater - $18
  5. 2002 "Les Monts Damnes" (Chavignol, Sancerre, Loire, France) by Thomas-Labaille - $18
  6. 2002 Sauvignon Blanc (Napa Valley, California, U.S.) by Groth - $17
Helen and Jason also recommend the 2002 Fume Blanc (Sonoma County, California, U.S.) by Dry Creek Vineyard - $12

Some Definitions

Fume Blanc is a marketing term that U.S. winemakers use to mean Sauvignon Blanc. It comes from Pouilly-Fume, a sub-region of the Loire Valley. Loire is the French region most known for its Sauvignon Blancs.

The People

Jason, Helen, Greg, Jeff, Peter, Sunny, Gaia, Jerome, Christine, French and Stever


We tried a different style of tasting this time. Instead of drinking one wine at a time, we tasted the first three together then the second three together.

Sauvignon Blancs are a tricky bunch. The New Zeland version is highly unusual in that it never touches oak barrels, but it is possibly the most like other popular wines in the sense that it's flavors are strong and straightforward. It is enjoyable because of an unmistakable crispness and unusual aromas. I compare it to tasting an ethnic, exotic drink that tingles your tastebuds. California offers SBs with strong and straightforward flavors. But, unlike the NZ ones, Calif. vintners like to gouge their SBs with oak. So, those strong and straightforward flavors tend to be the tired and overused ones that make a wine taste more like Vanilla Coke than a work of art. Many French (and Calif) producers look to a different mold: oak should be used to smooth-out the wine, but not to compromise the grape's natural beauty and complexity. Good producers yield a smooth, well-balanced wine with subtle, enjoyable flavors. But, balance and subtlety are difficult things. Preface a well-balanced wine with an acidic wine and it will taste flat. Have a bite before you sip and the food flavors may hide any the wine aromas you are trying to uncover. I think I ran into this issue at the tasting. I've enjoyed many of these wines on previous occasions, but had difficulty during the tasting. Wines I knew to be well-balanced and interesting were flat and without flavor. Maybe there is something to be said for careful ordering of wines within a tasting, even when the wines are all of the same grape.

#3 was the clear winner of the bunch. Only two people didn't give it top honors. Greg enjoyed the grassiness and high acidity. Christine said that it reminded her of rabutan (an exotic fruit similar to lychee). Helen would love to have it with a grilled mahi topped with cilantro-lime butter. French like the peachy flavor and dry, peppery aftertaste. It wasn't light and fresh enough for Gaia. Peter thought it had the most character. Sunny said it was excellent, complex and fruity. Jeff wished he could have been enjoying the wine outside on a sunny knoll with sun glisting off his glass. Jason said it was lively with lime, tropical fruit and oak flavors.

In contrast, all but two had #5 in the bottom half of their list. French called it balanced, pleasant and sweet. Gaia called it cheap and watery. Sunny said it was thin. Greg found an initial mustiness and light aromas of grass and citris. Jeff thought the mouldy smell & taste matched well with the blue cheese; he said the wine wasn't as interesting as it could have been. Christine said it went well with food and found flavors of grass, smoke, berries and apples. Stever compared the wine to canned green beans. Helen called it trashy (in a good way). Jason noted some oak along with blueberry, cedar and (fresh) green bean flavors.

#4 didn't receive much love even though it's an NZ wine like #3. French caught an asparagus flavor and called it balanced, bright and green. Gaia enjoyed it: light, fresh, lily flavor and sweet were her comments. She also noted a long aftertaste (IAP). Sunny loved the lemon/citris flavors. Greg thought it was refreshing at first, but then turned bad. Jeff thought it was thin and metallic and had an unpleasant finish; "stinker of the bunch," he said. Christine compared it to a "Lansdowne Street happy hour." If this wine was a person he met on the street, Stever would shake its hand. Stever enjoyed the light flowery and jasmine flavors. Helen said it was metallic, juicy and smooth w/ mild green vegetative flavors. Great with salmon, she said. Jason whiffed rubber and tasted lime and a pleasant acidity.

#1 got middle-of-the-road ratings from most everyone. A lot of people noted that it went well with smoked salmon. Greg noted banana, citris, vanilla flavors and some oak. Christine said it tasted of alcohol, apricot and smoke; she called it young and cheap. Stever said, "Water lasts longer on the palette." Helen called it smooth and well balanced with a metallic taste and a refreshingly lemony smell. French didn't much like it: smoke, acetone and alcohol were the only flavors he perceived. Gaia liked the refreshing orange and lemon flavors but called it "unimpressive." Jerome said it was smoky and acidy. Peter caught grapefruit and apricot flavors and an unpleasant finish. Sunny would have been just as happy drinking lemon spritzer. Jeff said it was cool, clean and pleasant w/ flavors of citris, parsley and chives. Jason said it was crispy, fruity and balanced.

#2 was divisive: four people rated it second-best of the night; six of us put it last or second-to-last on our lists. Greg found an oily viscous-ness, low acidity and grass and lychee flavors. Christine noted blackberry and lemon flavors. Stever called it sharp, musty and thought it smelled of gym socks---worth a cucumber roll. Helen thought it was grassy and dry. French called it weak and underweight. Gaia loved it. She said it was sweeter, had less acid and went well with food. Peter noted oak and tannin and said that it went well with meat because it was able to cut through the fats. Sunny thought it went well with fatty food and cheese. Jeff said it had a sophisticated texture: smooth, oily and viscous. Jason found oak and melon flavors, but called it flat---roadkill.

#6 was all over the place. French said it had a nice finish with flesh fruit flavors (peach and nectarine). Gaia loved its freshness and liquorice flavor. Peter said it was lighter than the others. Sunny noted an alcoholy taste. Greg said it had a nice finish with some oak and tropical fruit flavors. Jeff compared the texture to #2 and noted a metallic flavor. Stever said it wasn't remarkable---like canned green beans. Helen thought it was bubbly and sweet with a fermented feel. Jason found oak and bubble gum flavors but thought it a bit flat.

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Last modified: Sun Dec 5 12:16:00 2004