First it was Sideways, the movie that turned pinot noir into a household name. Now we have The Vines of Sauvignon Blanc, a soap opera named after my go-to summer white.
Will it make a star of the variety? I doubt it. For one thing, the soap in question lasts barely more than two minutes.
Distributed via Twitter’s Vine mobile app, it’s a series of 22 six-second micro episodes created for iPhone and Android devices by LogoTV, the U.S. digital channel aimed at the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
For another, as far as I could tell from the first 14 instalments, there’s not a whole lot of screen time for sauvignon blanc in the series, which stars 30 Rock’s Sue Galloway and Happy Endings’ Stephen Guarino, among others. But the plot does revolve around a gay vineyard owner who is given just 126 seconds to live by his doctor before managing, with tweet-like brevity, to squeeze in a white-wine-fuelled courtship with a bisexual male receptionist and a tryst with a burly stud.
Let’s just say the soap is racy and bold, like its oenological namesake. Few whites can quench a summer thirst as well as zesty, grassy, light-bodied sauvignon blanc. Perfect for backyard sipping on its own, it’s also magical with grilled seafood, sashimi, cheese courses and salads and pizzas topped with goat cheese. Herewith, a few examples from around the world at a range of prices.
Jean-Max Roger Cuvée Les Caillottes Sancerre 2011, France
Score: 93 Price: $24.95
“Caillottes” is what locals in the Loire Valley call the rocky clay-limestone soil that yields some of the finest white Sancerres – all made from sauvignon blanc. There’s a gloriously stony, smoky character in this beauty, which owes just as much to the use of wild yeasts, whose spent deposits are left to mingle with the liquid before bottling. Bone dry and classically understated, it’s like lemon and grapefruit dusted with chalk.
Steve Bird Sauvignon Blanc 2010, New Zealand
Score: 92 price: $18. 95
This is unusually, and refreshingly, lean for a New Zealand sauvignon blanc, a category that surged to global prominence decades ago with an immodest style that’s like a marching band of gooseberry, grapefruit and grass. You’ll find those flavours here, framed by dry, tangy acidity.
Therapy Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2012, British Columbia
Score: 90 Price: $252/12-bottle case
With labels depicting Rorschach inkblot tests, the winery likes to trade on the tag line: “Because everyone needs a little therapy.” This white is more like an invigorating smoothie served poolside at a spa resort than a visit to the shrink. Fruit-forward with flavours of peach and mango, it culminates with juicy acidity. At just 11 per cent alcohol, it’s a safer choice than most when it comes to slippery pool decks. www.therapyvineyards.com
Robert Mondavi Fumé Blanc 2010, California
Score: 90 Price: $22.95
The late, great California producer Robert Mondavi gets credit for swapping “sauvignon” with “fumé” on his labels, a shrewd marketing move. Most sauvignon blanc is fermented and aged in refrigerated steel tanks to preserve fruity freshness, but many Americans in the 1960s recoiled at the grape’s classic vegetal overtones. Oak fermentation tames the greenery. Hence “fumé,” which resonated with “smoky” oak as well as the Pouilly-Fumé appellation in France. True to form, there’s no asparagus in this elegant 2010, which has a soft core and notes of red apple, citrus and spice.
Graham Beck Sauvignon Blanc 2011, South Africa
Score: 88 Price: $14.95
Stylistically, South African sauvignon blanc sits somewhere between the punchy fruit and grass of New Zealand and the subtlety of Sancerre. That’s the case in this well-priced example, which hints at grapefruit, flint and herbs.
Lapostolle Casa Gran Seleccion Sauvignon Blanc 2010, Chile
Score: 87 Price: $14.95
“Gran Seleccion” sounds a tad hyperbolic for this modest bottling, but the wine is solidly balanced, with a whiff of smoke rising above green melon and lemon.
Thalia Sauvignon Blanc Vilana 2011, Greece
Score: 84 Price: $9.95
A bargain Greek white for those who may be suffering their own debt crisis at home, this lean offering from Crete fits the bill, showing straightforward lemony freshness with an attractively bitter edge.