By The Glass
French sauvignon blancs offer bold 'acid trip'
OVER the years, my tastes in wine have changed. The big, bold wines I once preferred just don't have the same appeal. They don't always seem to fit the moment, occasion or meal.
Some of my friends kid me; they say I'm getting old and can't handle the Big Guns any longer. Don't get me wrong, I love these wines for what they are -- I just find it challenging to apply their competing flavors to the foods I enjoy.
As I've tasted more wines, my point of reference has expanded and my tastes have changed.
I now value flavor, elegance, nuance, balance. And I treasure uniqueness. That said, I can now come clean and reveal -- I've become an acid freak.
I love wines with crisp, refreshing -- almost bracing -- acidity. Acidity in wine is the backbone of food-friendliness, nobility and longevity. Without acid in some form, a wine becomes limp, viscous, flabby and lifeless.
Of the many choices for a crisp white -- from a refreshing Italian pinot grigio to a riveting German dry riesling and beyond -- I tend to favor sauvignon blanc from France. Often passed over and misunderstood for its seemingly aggressive flavors, well-made sauvignon blanc lends elegance to any meal.
IN THE chilly vineyards of the Pouilly-sur-Loire region of France, one of my favorite producers is Didier Dagueneau. Didier and his cousin Serge are fourth-generation wine-makers in a family credited with creating some of the world's most profound wines.
In the vineyards around his native village of St. Andelain, Didier pursues his goal -- an intelligent marriage of modern vinification and the traditional techniques of his forefathers, while respecting the life and the soul of the soil.
Didier does nothing halfway; some consider his approach fanatical. He employs twice the number of workers of a conventional winery and when possible uses a horse to plow certain parcels to avoid damaging the vines with tractor wheels.
While these practices result in a 25 percent lower yield as compared to neighboring vineyards, Didier's grapes, and thus his wines, achieve the ultimate expression of terroir and climate. They are simply the best in the world.
Dagueneau bottles four sauvignon blanc cuvées:
Buisson Renard: From a parcel mid-slope on the southwest side of St. Andelain, with soils that contain the perfect balance of silex (a mixture of clay and flint) -- flavorful and expressive.
Pur Sang (or Pure Blood): Primarily from a vineyard called La Folie with deeper clay and with some chalky limestone -- textured and rich with vibrant fruit.
Silex: Considered Dagueneau's grand cru, produced only from plots high on the slopes of Saint Andelain, and only from vineyards with high amounts of silex -- pure and riveting with aromatic spices.
Blanc-Fume de Pouilly: The most approachable cuvée -- warmer and rounder with melon and herb aromas.
These wines should be cellared like the great white wines of Burgundy. Only after a couple of years in the bottle do they expand, open up and literally explode with dimensions of fruit and terroir.
Although these fabulous, hard-to-find sauvignon blancs sell for $65 to $85 and not everyone has a wine cellar to age them in, they are worth the search and will reward those seeking an "acid trip." I often find myself enjoying the panoply of flavors of the 2000 and 2001 -- among the great white wines of the world.
Kevin Toyama is at sommelier at the Halekulani and an advanced certificate holder from the Court of Master Sommeliers. This column is written by a rotating panel of wine professionals.
This column is a weekly lesson in wine pairing written by a rotating panel of wine professionals. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org