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Sauvignon Blanc grape adapts to diverse soils, climates

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Dave DeSimone | For the Tribune-Review
In the Loire Valley, delicious dry white wines made from sauvignon blanc fruit use place names rather than identifying the grape on the bottle label.

Winegrowers the world over love planting sauvignon blanc, a grape that adapts handily to diverse soils and climates. But for the best introduction to sauvignon blanc’s most intriguing aromas and full flavorful pleasures, try the dry white wines from the grape’s spiritual home in France’s upper Loire River Valley.

Ironically, the name of the grape traditionally does not appear on the Loire Valley wine labels. Instead, the specific names of the places where the vines grow figure prominently on the bottles.

The practice adheres to the centuries-old traditions of highlighting and valuing the cultural identity and personalities of each specific wine sub-region (also known as an “appellation”).

At first blush, it might seem complicated. But it can be fun to learn appellation names by comparing the styles of the sauvignon blanc wines from each place.

Since prices for the wines remain relatively reasonable, you don’t have to break the bank either to organize a tasting or buy a bottle for dinner.

For starters, chill down and enjoy the following tasty Loire Valley sauvignon blanc-based bottles for late summer pleasure:

• The 2018 Domaine du Salvard, Cheverny, France (Luxury 81050; $17.99) comes from a blend of sauvignon blanc (85%) and Chardonnay grown in limestone and sandy soils in Cheverny, an appellation that plays second fiddle to its more famous neighboring sub-regions in the Loire.

Nonetheless, Salvard’s delicious Cheverny offers forward quince and guava flavors balanced with zesty freshness and a superb fruity, yet dry finish. It’s a real thirst-quenching “gulper.” Pair it with fresh oysters on the half-shell. Recommended.

• The zesty 2018 Chavet Fils, Menetou-Salon Blanc “Les Brangers,” France (Luxury 80558; $19.99) comes from the Menetou-Salon, another subregion lacking the ready recognition of Loire Valley neighbors such as Sancerre. But like Sancerre whites, this wine comes from sauvignon blanc grapes grown in distinctive Kimmeridgian soils, a clay rich in limestone.

Fermentation occurs in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks to capture the fruit’s natural freshness. The resulting wine offers lovely white flower, grapefruit and guava aromas. Similar fruit flavors follow wrapped with superb, crisp acidity and medium concentration. The wine finishes fruity, but dry for a refreshing pleasure.

Try it with a salad of goat’s cheese, pickled beets and walnut with a light vinaigrette dressing. Recommended.

The Quincy (believe it or not, pronounced in French, can-see) appellation lies on the Cher River, a major tributary to the Loire River. The appellation dates to the 1100s, when Burgundy’s Citeaux Abbey monks arrived and recognized the region’s superior grape-growing potential.

• The 2017 Domaine Mardon, Quincy “Cuvée Très Vieilles Vignes” France (Luxury 80551, $21.99) comes from sauvignon blanc vines dating between 50 and 80 years old and tended with organic methods. The wine ferments in stainless steel to highlight fresh aromas and crisp flavors. In the glass, complex lime blossom and citrus aromas open to juicy grapefruit and guava flavors. A touch of creaminess and lively acidity frame the fruity, yet dry finish.

Pair it with sautéed grouper with a butter and caper sauce. Highly Recommended.

• The 2018 Phillippe Raimbault, Sancerre “Les Godons,” France (Luxury 76972; $22.99) comes from Sancerre, the Loire Valley’s best-known sauvignon blanc appellation. The sauvignon blanc for this wine grows on a steep, south-facing vineyard forming an amphitheater which captures warmth. The grapes ripen fully to create a fruity, rich style.

Aromas of quince and oranges greet the nose. Ripe guava and orange flavors balance with rich acidity carrying through the dry finish. Pair it with grilled halibut. Highly Recommended.

• The 2018 Domaine A. Cailbourdin, Pouilly-Fumé “Les Cris,” France (Luxury 81019; $24.99) comes from sauvignon blanc growing on the Loire River’s right bank. The vines toil in pebbly limestone-rich soils and enjoy southern sun exposure. The grower uses essentially organic methods with regular plowing and then harvests the grapes by hand.

Fermentation takes place with indigenous yeasts to allow the fruit to evolve naturally. The wine unfolds lime, green apple and quince aromas with a hint of smoky flint. Rich, juicy citrus flavors balance with uplifting, bright acidity. The wine’s elegant, dry finish offers plenty of fruit and intriguing earthy hints.

Pair it with seafood pasta with shrimp and scallops. Highly Recommended.

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