Sip a New Zealand sauvignon blanc this holiday weekend

Consumer Reports News: June 30, 2011 01:48 PM

With above-average temperatures expected in most of the country for the next few days, consider cooling off with a chilled bottle of a standout sauvignon blanc.

At its best, this citrusy white wine has a crisp acidity that can make it more refreshing and food-friendly than many chardonnays, which are generally richer and heavier. And our new Ratings of sauvignon blanc, available to subscribers, show that excellent bottles of this varietal can cost as little as $12.

Sauvignon blanc is grown in various regions of the world, each with distinct flavor profiles depending on climate, soil, and other factors. Yet all the recommended bottles from our tests are from New Zealand, where a cool climate creates sauvignon blancs with tropical fruit and citrus notes, often accompanied by hints of gooseberry, herbs, and grasses. The tested wines from New Zealand, in alphabetical order, are Cloudy Bay, Cupcake, Kim Crawford, Kono, Matua, Mud House, and Nobilo. All are the 2010 vintage.

The other wines we tested were decent but, compared with the best New Zealanders, were a bit less balanced or were marred by some off-notes or a lack of the intense fruit flavors that lift many better sauvignon blancs. Those wines include Honig from California and Chateau Ste. Michelle from Washington state.

Good foods to pair with NZ sauvignon blancs include such summer standbys as grilled shrimp and fruit salad. As for serving temperature, sauvignon blanc is best served quite cold; chill it in the fridge for close to 3 hours or in the freezer for 20 minutes or so.

Our Ratings detail, bottle by bottle, how the tested sauvignon blancs fared in our tests and include our experts' suggestions for specific foods to pair with each.

We've also recently rated another superb summer wine, rosé, in both its still and sparkling incarnations.

Paul Reynolds

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