Red, white, and you: Agreeable wine for $12 or less
If you want to get good value and avoid being ripped off, it’s best to fly under the trendy radar.
Let’s say you want a hot date. You could go out with Kim Kardashian, but where’s the value in that? Before the evening’s out, you’ll be stuck with the cost of a full-body Brazilian wax, buckets of $1000-an-ounce makeup applied with a lawn spreader, a custom-fitted silicone baby bump, a restaurant bill to rival the GDP of most Latin American nations, and a nightclub tab larger than Donald Trump’s ego.
And that’s not to mention dealing with the entire Kardashian family of greedy, dimwitted, publicity junkies; the phalanx of paparazzi goons that follows like a pack of crazed jackals; and the inevitable tabloid exposé, in which Kimmy reveals it was just a ploy to jack up the ratings of her fading reality show, Throwing Up with the Kardashians. All that, and you’re still going to bed alone.
On the other hand, there’s the girl next door. She’s nice, smart, and doesn’t have to epilate her entire body. You can have a normal, pleasurable, and not breathtakingly expensive night out. And best of all, she’s not Kim Kardashian.
In the world of wine, Chardonnay is Kim Kardashian, while Sauvignon Blanc is the girl next door. Sauvignon Blanc is everything Chardonnay is not. It’s simpler, more refreshing, less bombastic, and not nearly as expensive. It pairs exceptionally well with seafood, but also makes a fine companion to poultry and lighter meats, like pork and veal.
And because Sauvignon Blanc was never marketed to affluent trendoids happy to pay $15 for a glass of over-oaked, over-fruity, overly alcoholic swill at this week’s hot new restaurant, you can get a much bigger bang for your hard-earned wine buck.
If any country is associated with Sauvignon Blanc, it’s New Zealand, which in the 1980s gave the varietal its 15 minutes of fame by releasing a slew of fresh, lively, citrusy, affordable wines that captivated wine drinkers around the world. Some of these -- Cloudy Bay and Kim Crawford, for instance -- became cult favorites (and started approaching Kardashian-like price points).
Others, like Brancott Estate, didn’t get quite the buzz, but kept churning out those fresh, lively, citrusy, affordable wines that consistently hit the sweet spot between quality and value. The 2011 Brancott Estate Sauvignon Blanc is just the latest example. It hits you in the palate with a crisp, lemony-grapefruity blast, then settles down to show a little ripeness and softness and orange-melon complexity before gearing up again for a stern lemony finish.
Another product of New Zealand’s Marlborough region, the epicenter of the country’s Sauvignon Blanc production, is the 2012 Kemblefield. In aroma and flavor, it’s similar to the Brancott -- lemon and grapefruit, a little richness and melon, a lingering citrusy finish -- reason again why it’s hard to go wrong with New Zealand Sauv Blancs.
But let’s give one up for the French, too. After all, Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé, two of the world’s most delectable wines, are made from Sauvignon Blanc, and even wines without those esteemed pedigrees offer much to like without much pain to the pocketbook.
The 2012 Chateau Montet, for one. A blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, it smells of melons and green apples and Meyer lemons, aromas that carry through to the palate, where you get notes of herbs and minerals. As for the Domaine de Regusse 2011 Vin de Pays Sauvignon, it seemed on the verge of oxidization, or was just a very odd wine. In either case, an excellent excuse to save $10.79.
I’ve written before of my general aversion to South African wines, but not the 2012 Spier Sauvignon Blanc. A steal of a deal at $8.99, it teases with lemon, apple, and grapefruit aromas, then satisfies with lemon-lime fruit, a hint of fresh herbs, and a creamy, mouth-filling texture that adds luxury to a lean, refreshing package.
Less compelling was the 2011 Chateau Ste. Michelle. It did the usual green apple-citrus-herbal thing, with soft acidity and moderately creamy mouth feel. It should appeal to many -- while being remembered by few.
I had high hopes for the 2011 Sauv Blanc from Casa Lapostolle, a Chilean producer of generally reliable, well-made wines. At least until I tried to drink the stuff: stinky diesel and cooked vegetable aromas, metallic flavors, and a short, sour finish. I’d rather go out with Kim Kardashian.