I love Sauvignon Blanc. There, it’s been said and now my bias is known. Since I love it, I drink a decent amount of it and I like trying new things as well as going with old stand bys that I know are good and typically at good price points. Sauvignon Blanc is a very approachable, refreshing, easy drinking dry white wine that goes great on a deck or by the pool during the summer or by a fire in the colder months. Excellent with shell fish and sharp cheeses and because of its characteristic acidity, it goes well with spicy thai or a bowl of chili. These are blanket statements about the varietal, but they’re statements that are going to prove to be correct in 95% of Sav Blancs out there, so I feel fairly comfortable making them. And more pertinently, these statements are quite applicable to the wines I write about today – the 2011 Hanna Russian River Valley (RRV) Sav Blanc from Sonoma in CA and the 2011 Nobilo Marlborough Sav Blanc from New Zealand. Both of these bottles fall into the old stand by category I mentioned above, as they’re both well made, delicious wines that are budget friendly with both retailing right around $12 per bottle. I have had both of these wines a number of times but I thought for this article I’d actually put them side by side to see how they truly compare.
A Little History
Sauvignon Blanc is a French varietal, native to the Bordeaux region. But Bordeaux is more associated with red wines and while there is a decent amount of Sav Blanc produced and bottled there simply because of the volume produced, more and more wine makers in Bordeaux are using Sav Blanc as a blending grape in some of their world class dessert wines. So for most consumers who want a good, dry Sav Blanc, they turn to other regions. It’s a hearty, adaptable grape and grown the world over; the US, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, South Africa and Italy just to name a few locations. But more and more, New Zealand is receiving acclaim for producing top notch, world class Sav Blanc, and it has become the default national grape of the Kiwis. Sonoma County in CA which lies just west of Napa also produces some world class Sav Blancs. Often overlooked because of the prominence of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma and specifically the Russian River Valley (RRV) in Sonoma produces some of the finest Sav Blanc in CA and the world. Its then no surprise that the climates of both Marlborough and the RRV are similar; dry, sunny and relatively cool (temperate) because of the regions respective proximity to water. Now that you’ve got a bit of a background on the regions and growing conditions, lets get to it!
Wine Chosen: 2011 Hanna Russian River Sauvignon Blancs vs. 2011 Nobilo Marlborough Sauvignon Blancs
Both wines are clear in the glass with now sedimentation or any visible flaws. They’re both relatively light or pale in color, with the Hanna appearing to have a straw color with a tinge of green while the Nobilo gives you a very pale yellow, almost clear appearance. So in terms of appearance, while almost a push, I’ll give the nod to the Hanna because of its mildly darker appearance. The noses of both wines are fairly similar as well. Both give you very crisp mineral and slate scents and the trademark citrus aromas that are present in almost all Sav Blancs. The citrus scents are slightly, and I’m nit picking here, different. The Hanna gives you a little orange and lime on the nose and true to Kiwi style, the Nobilo gives you the trademark grapefruit aroma that most expect from a Marlborough. Edge on the nose- Nobilo. Tasting these wines is an absolute pleasure.
The Hanna gives you a dry, mildly acidic light bodied mouth feel with really distinct flavors of lime, nectarine and a little vanilla. The Nobilo is dryer, right around bone dry with more acidity but still a light body. The grapefruit jumps out at you and is present throughout with a nice addition of tomato plant (think ripening tomatoes on the vine) and tropical, fruity flavors of pineapple. Both of these wines are very well balanced, and neither sees any time in oak (both are fermented 100% in stainless steel) and I think the very subtle differences come from the addition to the Hanna of Semillon (3%) and Chardonnay (4%) vs 100% Sav Blanc in the Nobilo. The result when compared side by side is a slightly mellower wine in the Hanna while the Nobilo is way more zesty and bright and has a nice citrus zip to it. Both have relatively short finishes with citrus flavors lingering a bit while the acid of the wines slowly dies down. All in all both are excellent wines, but for my pallet, I give the ever so slight edge to the Hanna; simply a personal preference.
So I officially declare the 2011 Hanna RRV Sauvignon Blanc the victor! In all honesty though, you cannot go wrong with either. They’re both great on their own, with salads with a vinaigrette dressing, or with grilled chicken or shrimp. They’re very similar wines and maybe I’m slightly more biased towards the Hanna because I’ve been there. But regardless if you’re a fan of Sav Blanc or want to try some nice, affordable crisp wines give one (or both) a try. Bottom line – if you want a little more acidity and more pronounced grapefruit flavors, go with Nobilo. For a slightly subtler, smoother wine that’s a little easier on the pallet with beautiful citrus and vanilla with a more rounded, moderate mouth feel give the Hanna a shot. Or get silly and drink them side by side and make your own determination!