Magazine article Sunset

Sorting out Sauvignon

Magazine article Sunset

Sorting out Sauvignon

Article excerpt

THE WINE IN my glass costs $150 a bottle. A version from another producer goes for $400. Another, $1,250. Cult Cabernets? No-Sauvignon Blancs. What I used to think of as an easy-sipping variety has been gaining on Chardonnay as our white of choice, but what's up with these wild prices?

Even the wine's character is all over the map these days. The $150 Lail Vineyards 2015 "Georgia" I'm studying now, for instance, is complex, layered with textures and flavors. "What you're calling confusing is my favorite thing about this variety!" says producer Robin Lail, great-grandniece of Gustave Niebaum, founder of Napa's historic Inglenook estate. "There's no proper way to make it." She outlines numerous factors that make a correlation between style and price clearstarting with the dirt. The Napa Valley land that grows legendary Cabernet is no cheaper if you were to plant it with Sauvignon Blanc. And leaf-by-leaf farming isn't less expensive ¡ust because the grape is white.

Winemaking choices continue the connection: Ferment in stainless steel tanks (the inexpensive option, with fresh, drink-me-now results)? Or in pricy French oak barrels? The latter spikes the price but can add layers of flavor and creamy, mouth-filling textures.

These are broad strokes, of course. But in general, slide up the price scale and you'll get a more complex wine-to a point. The $1,250 bottle? That's scarcity and reputation at work. Expect a mighty long wait to get on that allocation list.

Chalk НШ Estate 2016

(Chalk Hill; $33)

Stoniness and a hint of anise create a stir under crisp citrus, grapefruit blossoms, vanilla, and a lovely texture. …

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