Coke Roth

Nothing foolish about SB

Again you arrive at the last substantive page of Wine Press that will ultimately result in floccinaucinihilipilification. This word will come to describe your critique of what you are about to read. I’ll save you and the editor(s) the keystrokes on Google; it means you will likely find this column worthless.

What you are about to be subjected to, if you foolishly wish to continue, is only my opinion and a few minor points of plagiarism. So forget anything you want but do remember two words; Sauvignon Blanc.

With the goal of brevity by way of acronyms, SB has been a most important grape variety for centuries. Not only has SB been a delicious wine to drink over the millennia; not only do you find it grown and vinified on every continent except Antarctica; you wouldn't have one of your favorite red wines without it. As the paparazzi geneticists now tell us, long ago late at night in a vineyard in France when no one was watching, Cabernet Sauvignon was conceived on a wild one–nighter between SB and Cabernet Franc. Scandalous.

In the grand scheme of viticulture this naughty little grape has a comparatively short growing season and likely will be in the tank a month before other varieties. Part of the desire to harvest early is due to its physiology - it hangs too long. The appealing and much desired acidity often respires, so it loses its crispness. In addition, its trademark herbal flavor profiles become somewhat innocuous.

There are at least a half-dozen styles of SB. Sometimes it's downright vegetative; green beans, asparagus and mowed weeds. Surprisingly, this style of SB made a delicious lunch companion one time with a squash and asparagus soup. But you know me, I could find a perfect wine with sautéed tractor parts.

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Then there is that lighter style of vegetative character possessing nuances of bell pepper and lemon grass. This is the classic SB that made it so popular due to these appealing distinctions along with citrusy and mineral notes. Among other things, it quenches with its zesty acidity and sets the stage for just about anything that grew from dirt, had wings or spent its life in saltwater.

Loved by some, particularly felines, and despised by others, some SB has the odor of cat urinesurprisingly deliciousfor some, not me.

I never really thought of SB as having a rose character until last month when I smelled about 1,000 roses at the Portland Rose Garden (highly recommended). I found two particular floribunda, Eternal Flame and Talisman, which were spot–on SB; floral, lightly grassy with hints of cantaloupe. It made me crave SB so much I immediately departed for a food truck podor two (likewise highly recommended).

During the Great ‘70’s Chardonnay Shortage, several vintners put SB in new barrels, subjected it to malolactic fermentation and send it out as a poor substitute. No thanks! There are those that continue to barrel-age SB. When done right, it can be particularly harmonious with clams and mussels in their juices with butter, garlic and herbs. But what isn’t good with butter, garlic and herbs?

SB ascends to French royalty when blended with Semillon to make one of the world’s most expensive and delicious liquids, Sauterne; albeit SB making up about half. Sell a kidney and you, too, can get a case of First Growth Chateau d’Yquem. And you may think it is worth it! Honey, lime, viscosity, acidity, sweetness. Dang, there goes the retirement.

Importantly, SB is normally value priced, so you can keep all your important parts. I don’t know whether it’s my rapidly advancing age or dietary changes to increasing, somewhat gluttonous quantities of lighter food, but SB hits my mark. Mind you, it’s not healthy to stand between me and the dinner table with anything on it, but over the years I’ve gravitated to particularly lighter wines; SB being a favorite.

In prior columns I have noted my personal affinity for sparkling wine and Riesling with anything, steak and cigar included. Not so with SB, at least not in my mouth. For me, SB is the perfect cocktail and light – fare food wine with its normally low alcohol, high acidity and pleasing quaffable flavors.

I’m aware this rag promotes Northwest wines, however, I think it’s important for you to try wines of the world, SB being one of them. I do, and by doing so I think it broadens my overall appreciation for SB. Try a Sancerre from France, an Australian Daryl Groom, a Geyser Peak Californian and New Zealand SB. They are intriguing, different and delicious. But it will likely show you the Northwest is squarely in the SB game.

It’s extremely important for you to drink wine exactly as I do; after all, I’m a columnist and you are not. None of us with an opinion and a pen would fool you, would we? So my important advice is to chill a bottle of SB, if you haven’t lately, and invite over your friends and family. You can tell them they won’t feel fooled when they drink SB, in moderation, frequently.

This story was originally published September 2, 2015 3:39 PM.

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