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Sauvignon blanc hasn't traditionally had a champion in the Okanagan in the same way chardonnay, pinot gris or riesling have.Olga Kochina/iStockPhoto / Getty Images

A graceful and seriously enjoyable sauvignon blanc is the first taste of an exciting new partnership connecting Okanagan-native Michael Bartier and Boutinot Wines, a Britain-based company that produces wine in France, Italy and now British Columbia.

Boutinot reportedly sells 44 million bottles of wine each year around the world, including a range of products with wide distribution across Canada. This fledging project is starting from more humble origins, but the upside is huge. An international player taking an interest in Okanagan wine country is sure to build awareness.

Five hundred cases of wine were produced from vineyard block called Plot B in a site near the Bartier Bros. Winery in Oliver, B.C. The preponderance of Bs connected to the venture led to the brand being called Project B.

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Boutinot’s chef winemaker Eric Monnin travelled to the Okanagan from his home in Burgundy to visit Bartier and tour vineyards. They were in search of the best grape on the best site that was available to them. Surprisingly, this opportunity presented itself and is sure to raise the stakes for sauvignon blanc in the Okanagan, given that it is typically not considered to be one of the elite varieties in the region.

Sauvignon blanc doesn’t enjoy the same reputation as chardonnay, pinot gris or riesling with consumers and, arguably, winemakers. There are wineries in the Okanagan that have set out to specialize in those varieties, while sauvignon blanc doesn’t really have a champion in the same manner.

The Project B sauvignon blanc has just been released to select stores in British Columbia and through the Bartier Bros. tasting room, but there’s already plans to increase production of the sauvignon blanc in 2020 as well as add more wines to the portfolio. Private wine shops in Alberta are expected to stock the 2019 vintage next month.

The noteworthy new release is featured this week along with a range of wines that are well suited to buying and enjoying right now. This week’s lineup includes one of Boutinot’s classic reds as well as three other remarkable Okanagan whites that are worthy of more attention from wine lovers here at home and around the world.

Domaine Boutinot Les Coteaux Côtes du Rhône Villages 2017 (France)

Rating:89 /100

SCORE: 89 PRICE: $19.99

A blend of grenache and syrah grapes sourced from around the southern Rhône Valley, this well-spiced red wine is an ideal bistro or barbecue candidate. It’s soft with some structure thanks to a portion of barrel-aged wines that also add some complexity and weight to the palate. Drink now to 2023. Available in British Columbia at the above price, various prices in Alberta, $21.49 in Saskatchewan, $21 in Manitoba, $23.32 in Newfoundland. In Ontario, this is available via consignment for $21.99 through nobleestates.com.

Fish Hoek Sauvignon Blanc 2019 (South Africa)

Rating:88 /100

SCORE:88 PRICE: $10

Celebrated South African winemaker Bruce Jack is behind this enjoyable and affordable brand that’s part of the Fairtrade organization, which helps ensure that farmers and workers receive fair wages for their labour. This is an enjoyable everyday white for fans of refreshingly crisp and fruity styles of sauvignon blanc. The mix of lime zest, ruby grapefruit and tropical fruit aromas and flavours is tasty, with purity, freshness and length that make it stand out from similarly priced whites. Drink now. Available in Ontario.

Hillside Winery Unoaked Pinot Gris 2019 (Canada)

Rating:89 /100

SCORE: 89 PRICE: $23

This lively white wine from the Okanagan Valley carries the recently recognized Naramata Bench appellation on its label, which has been home to Hillside winery since its inception in 1989. An ideal summer sipper, this offers a delicious mix of tree fruit and tropical notes that are really appealing. Drink now. Available direct through hillsidewinery.ca.

J California Cuvée Sparkling (United States)

Rating:90 /100

SCORE: 90 PRICE: $29.95

This traditional method sparkling wine from California’s J Vineyards is made with chardonnay and pinot noir in a soft and enjoyable style. The pleasant creamy and fruity character is easy to appreciate with or without food. Drink now. Available in Ontario.

McManis Family Vineyards Petite Sirah 2018 (United States)

Rating:90 /100

SCORE: 90 PRICE: $22.95

Like zinfandel, petite sirah produces deeply coloured, ripe and flavourful red wines in California, with mouth-filling dark fruit, spice and sweet oak notes. This one comes from a family-operated winery based in California’s Central Valley, which is an abundant source of much of the state’s well-made examples. A plush texture and soft tannins makes this a solid barbecue red that’s ready to drink now and will hold over the next two or three years. Available in Ontario at the above price, various prices in Alberta and Nova Scotia.

Project B Sauvignon Blanc 2019 (Canada)

Rating:89 /100

SCORE: 89 PRICE: $25

A creative winemaking partnership between French native Eric Monnin and Okanagan pioneer Michael Battier, Project B is a stylish sauvignon blanc that’s bone dry, restrained and graceful. This isn’t exotic or zesty in the sauvignon blanc fashion of New Zealand. Instead, it’s understated, sublime and supremely refreshing as an aperitif or a dream partner for seafood or salad dishes. Drink now to 2022. Available at the above price in British Columbia, various prices in Alberta.

Synchromesh Riesling 2019 (Canada)

Rating:91 /100

SCORE: 91 PRICE: $23

This benchmark Okanagan Valley riesling is a blend of fruit from four vineyards cultivated by Synchromesh. Made in an off-dry style, it offers delicious fruit-salad aromas and flavours with appealing honeyed sweetness balanced by bright citrus-y acidity. The finish is long with vibrant tropical fruit flavours that really linger. Drink now to 2029. Available direct through synchromeshwines.ca.

Terravista Vineyards Viognier 2019 (Canada)

Rating:90 /100

SCORE: 90 PRICE: $23

The exotic character of the viognier grape can be too much for many wine lovers, particularly in the heat of summer. This vibrant unoaked example shows attractive citrus and floral notes with crisp, refreshing character to balance the richness and 14-per-cent alcohol that adds volume to the palate. This is ready to drink now and over the next year to make the most of its freshness and intensity. Available direct through terravistavineyards.com.

Toro Bravo Verdejo Sauvignon Blanc 2019 (Spain)

Rating:87 /100

SCORE: 87 PRICE: $8.15

This fruity and balanced white continues to be the most enjoyable selection from easy-drinking, well-priced Toro Bravo wines from Spain. The new vintage doesn’t suffer any letdown. It’s soft and fruity, with bright citrus and fleshy stone-fruit flavours that give it mass appeal. Drink now. Available in Ontario at the above price, $8.99 in Manitoba.

Westcott Vineyards Pinot Noir Rosé 2019 (Canada)

Rating:89 /100

SCORE: 89 PRICE: $23.99

This refreshingly dry rosé is produced from 100-per-cent estate-grown pinot noir coming from the Westcott family’s vineyard perched on the Niagara Escarpment in Jordan, Ont. The pale colour and berry and citrus notes are made to please. Drink now to 2022. Available direct through westcottvineyards.com.

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