by Fred McMillin
for February 17, 1999


Whither This White?


For every 100 acres of California Sauvignon Blanc in 1986, there were 193 acres of Chardonnay. Here's what's happened since then.

Year   Sauvignon Blanc Chardonnay  
1986 - 100 193  
1994 - 74 370  
1997 - 74 572  

Sauvignon Blanc gets less respect...than it deserves.

...James Laube, California Wine

The Rest of the Story

In view of the Chardonnay explosion, what will be the fate of Sauvignon Blanc, alias Fumé Blanc? Well, as Mark Twain said, "The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated." Applied to this vine, the acreage decline has stopped. Futhermore, critic Larry Walker says the wine is "improving dramatically. Winemakers are moving away from the aggressive herbal style toward a more subtle melon-apple profile, with a light smack of oak." (Wine Enthusiast Magazine) "It is becoming sort of a poor man's (less expensive) Chardonnay, which I think works well," says Mr. Laube.

My panel found a Blanc that works VERY well. It costs $18, and outscored a dozen more expensive Chardonnays ranging from $20 to $37. Here it is.

Today's Wine

Mike Grgich '96 Fumé Blanc (Dry Sauvignon Blanc), Napa Valley
Grgich (gerr-gich) Hills Cellar, Rutherford, CA.
Mike Grgich Comment—"The usually pronounced varietal character [herbal] takes a back seat to the gold, tangy fruit"...that's what Larry Walker was talking about.
Competition Results—Three Gold Medals at the San Diego National Competition, including Best White Wine of Show.
Rating by My Tasters—EXCELLENT
Winemaker—Mike Grgich, a master (pictured)
Phone—(707) 963-2784
Price—$18 range


There's a fine, $13 new wine book by award-winning author Michael Bonadies. On page 170 of Sip by Sip we find that when compared to Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc "is often more complex and food-friendly." If you have any doubts, try that '96 Grgich.

...from Sip by Sip, An Insider's Guide to Learning All About Wine, Doubleday.

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.


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