FEW WINES MADE WITH THE SAME GRAPE are as different as sauvignon blanc. ’s can be as tart as a morning grapefruit. Good French wines are almost steely. And California offers lush tropical flavors.
What’s even more intriguing, though, is that there is no right or wrong style. It’s a matter of preference (as all wine choices should be — because, despite what the snobs say, the best wine is the one you like). There are, of course, similarities between sauvignon blanc. They’re usually inexpensive, with great wines for about $15, and they’re food friendly as well as refreshing on their own, something that can’t be said for a lot of chardonnays.
What causes the differences between the wines? A combination of weather, soil and the winemakers’ preferences. The geography of — an island in the south Pacific — is entirely different from that of Bordeaux, off the Atlantic coast of . And California is completely different from both of them. Throw in winemaking differences — the French do things differently from the Chileans — and you have a wine with as many differences as similarities.
With that in mind, here are some wines to watch for:
• Almost anything from , including Kim Crawford, Whitehaven, Villa Maria, Nobilio and Spy Valley. I especially like the $16 Spy Valley and the $10 wines from Villa Maria and Nobilio. One tip: Try to find the previous year’s vintage, since the extra year in the bottle develops a little more richness.
• California shouldn’t be cold enough to make great sauvignon blanc, but there are dozens of excellent producers, including Benziger, Geyser Peak and Jewel at around $10 and Cakebread, Duckhorn, St. Supery and Chalk Hill up to $30.
• : Not always for the faint of heart — can be like without the balance. That said, there’s nothing wrong with the wine, and most of the labels we see, such as Veramonte and Los Vascos, are $10 or less.