Know four things about sauvignon blanc. First, it doesn’t taste like chardonnay. Second, it comes in a variety of styles, from New Zealand’s grapefruit-focused wines to California’s tropical flavors to the steel and mineral of France. Third, you can buy great sauvignon blanc for $15 or less, and even many of the $10 wines are terrific. Fourth, it’s food friendly, pairing with most white wine foods, especially with seafood, and almost anything with garlic and parsley.
Yet sauvignon blanc doesn’t get much respect in the wine world. Some of this, of course, is because it isn’t chardonnay, which is the most popular white wine grape in the world. Some of it is because it is inexpensive, and we know how the wine world feels about inexpensive wine. And some of it is because the sauvignon blanc taste isn’t consistent from region to region. Chardonnay that is made in California has much in common with chardonnay made elsewhere in the world, but New Zealand’s sauvignon blanc tastes different from California’s, which tastes different from France’s, and so on.
You won’t go wrong with these sauvignon blancs:
• Chateau Bonnet Blanc ($14). The weak dollar has pushed the price up, but it’s still a fair value and a good example of the French style — some fruit and a mineral quality. It’s a blend of sauvignon blanc and semillion, which is typical of white wines from Bordeaux.
• Spy Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($18). Dollar for dollar, perhaps the best wine in the world. It has New Zealand’s trademark grapefruit flavor, but also some pineapple in the middle and a long, lingering mineral finish.
• Los Cardos Sauvignon Blanc ($10). Chile is better known for sauvignon blanc than Argentina, but the Los Cardos more than holds its own with his Chilean brethren. It’s very fruity, with lots of grapefruit and even some pineapple up front.
Ask the Wine Guy
Q. What’s a corkage fee? br>
A. That’s a fee that restaurants charge if you bring your own wine to dinner. Not all restaurants let you bring your own wine, and not all restaurants that do charge a corkage fee. It’s best to call first to see if you can bring wine and if there is a fee. A fair corkage fee is $10 or $15, but some restaurants charge much more.
PASTA AND CHICKPEAS
This sounds odd and not especially good, but it’s simple, cheap, quite tasty and surprisingly not heavy. It has also become hip and trendy, with variations on this recipe showing up in cookbooks and magazines this year. And it’s perfect with sauvignon blanc — both to cook with and to drink.
Serves 3-4, takes about 20 minutes
8 oz cappellini or thin spaghetti
1 16-oz can chickpeas (Goya are good), drained — save the liquid
3-4 cloves chopped garlic
4 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup chopped parsley or cilantro
1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and stir constantly for 30 seconds to one minute, until the garlic becomes fragrant.
2. Take the chickpea liquid and add enough white wine to make 1 1/2 cups. When the garlic is fragrant, add the liquid and then the chickpeas. Add salt and pepper, and stir. Bring to a boil, and then turn heat to low and simmer, covered, for about five minutes.
3. Cook and drain the pasta according to package directions.
4. Add the drained pasta to the chickpea mixture and stir well. Toss in the chopped parsley or cilantro and serve.
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