Ray Isle (@islewine on Twitter) is Food & Wine's executive wine editor. We trust his every cork pop and decant – and the man can sniff out a bargain to boot. Take it away, Ray.
Ah, Sauvignon Blanc. It’s zesty, it’s crisp, it’s loaded with citrusy zing, it whets the appetite and it tastes great served cold on a hot day. And, once in a while, it smells like a green pepper exploded in your glass.
Those aromas - shading from cut grass to green pepper to jalapeno - come from the presence in the wine of naturally occurring compounds called methoxypyrazines, which tend to be more present in cooler climate and/or underripe Sauvignons. (The specific compound is 2-methoxy-3-isobutylpyrazine, an excellent conversation-stopper for your next cocktail party.)
In the end, here’s my advice: If you like the peppery intensity that Sauvignon Blanc can have, head toward cooler climate regions, like New Zealand, South Africa’s Cape area and France’s Loire Valley. If you don’t like it, stick to warmer climates - Napa Valley would be a classic example.
Oh, and that cat-pee aroma people sometimes find in Sauvignon Blanc? That’s mercapto-4-methyl-4-pentan-2-one. As any self-respecting tomcat will be happy to tell you.
A good, not-green-at-all Sauvignon Blanc
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