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Sauvignon Blanc Paired With Goat’s Cheese

The Theme

Sauvignon Blanc is a white wine everyone should know.  It is the perfect white for an aperitif or cocktail party, is one of the most food-friendly wines on the planet, and is usually quite affordable.  Different regions make the wine in a slightly different style, which you can explore with this tasting!  Sauvignon Blanc and goat’s cheese is also one of the greatest food-wine pairings there is, as you can demonstrate to your guests!

The Angle

Do a “blind” tasting of 5-6 sauvignon blancs from around the world.  Great sauvignon blanc is made in the Sancerre region of France’s Loire Valley, in California, and elsewhere.  Pick a range of price points, though all will most likely cost less than $30.  Meanwhile, instead of doing a cheese board, pick 4-5 different varieties of goat’s cheese from around the world.  That way your guests can discover a favorite cheese to pair with a new favorite wine, and it takes the tasting party to a whole new level!

Sample Lineup

  1. Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand, Marlborough), $10
  2. Veramonte Sauvignon Blanc (Chile, Casablanca Valley), $10
  3. Mulderbosch Sauvignon Blanc (South Africa), $17
  4. Groth Sauvignon Blanc (California, Napa Valley), $18
  5. Pascal Jolivet Sancerre (France, Loire Valley), $20
  6. Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand, Marlborough), $25
  7. Grgich Hills Fume Blanc (California, Napa Valley), $30

 

The Wines

Sauvignon Blanc is pretty wonderfully uncomplicated, and it’s delicious.  This tasting allows you to show off wines from all over the world while hitting all of the real hot spots of this wonderful wine.  You may have heard buzz about New Zealand wines – the sauvignon blancs from the Kiwis’ Marlborough region are unbelievable and becoming one of the most popular wines around.  Villa Maria is an amazing value and Cloudy Bay is a delicious higher-end sauvignon blanc that put New Zealand on the map.  Mulderbosch is also a very well-known and well-respected winemaker from South Africa known for a great (and affordable) sauvignon blanc. 

If you’ve heard of a wine called “Sancerre,” we’re not surprised – it’s a specific region of France’s Loire Valley known for producing fantastic sauvignon blanc.  Californian winemakers have also adopted this versatile grape – and your guests may notice a creamier edge to California sauvignon blanc because the winemakers often blend a little Semillon grape into the wine.  Note that “Fume Blanc” is just another way to describe Sauvignon Blanc.  The phrase was coined by Robert Mondavi based on the “fumes” of fog emerging from his vineyard, as he thought it might sell better than a wine called Sauvignon Blanc!  Finally, throw in a $10 Chilean for fun and you’ve got an around-the-world wine tasting!

We recommend this as a “blind” tasting – disguise the bottles in advance and let your guests determine which they like best.  It should be fascinating to see if they can tell a difference between a $10 and $30 wine, and if they have a preference for the more tangy citrusy wines made overseas or the creamier versions from California. 

Music

What music would you play for an outdoor picnic?  This is the perfect wine for such an occasion, so choose the music accordingly.  Pick something fun that evokes carefree spring and summer gatherings with friends outdoors.  We’d pick Counting Crows’ greatest hits album “Films About Ghosts,” Dave Matthews’ Band’s “Under the Table & Dreaming” album, Sheryl Crow’s “The Very Best of Sheryl Crow,” Madonna’s “Immaculate Collection,” and John Mayer’s “Room for Squares.”

Pairings

Sauvignon Blanc and Goat’s Cheese are one of the best food and wine pairings there is.  Just as you’re showing off wines from around the world, do the same with the cheeses!  Pick four very different goat’s cheeses that show off different styles, and place them around the room so that as your guests move from wine to wine, they discover different cheeses as well.  Serve with table water crackers and whole wheat crackers.   We’d recommend the following five cheeses, but your local cheese store or grocery can help you pick a nice variety.

  1. Humboldt Fog, California
  2. Crottin, Les Chevrots, France (presented as small firm “discs”)
  3. Chevre, France (presented as a soft “log”)
  4. Manchester, England
  5. Valencay, France

Humboldt Fog is rapidly becoming famous in its own right, one of the emerging cheese “brands” that people specifically ask for from California’s Cowgirl Creamery.  It’s noticeable for its grey ash-colored line down the center.  Valencay makes a striking presentation and you can mention it was Napoleon’s favorite cheese!  And of course France makes a variety of goat’s cheese worth exploring.

This is such a specific wine-and-cheese event that we wouldn’t recommend much else in the way of food pairings (certainly not heavy apps).  Add some grapes, maybe some dried apricots, and you’re all set.

 

Tasting Notes

In our view, the most important thing in selecting wines for this tasting is picking a variety of wines from around the world – making sure not to miss the Marlborough region of New Zealand.  We love Villa Maria and Cloudy Bay, and they happen to present a nice “less expensive / more expensive” pair for your “blind” tasting.  But really, we’ve rarely had a bad New Zealand sauvignon blanc from this region.  We do think it’s worth introducing your guests to Cloudy Bay as arguably the most famous sauvignon blanc in the world, but the success of your event doesn’t depend on it. 

When choosing California wines, feel free to choose other producers but we’d recommend keeping two things in mind.  First, choose at least one “Fume Blanc” if you can find it, just to highlight to your guests that this is just another way of describing the same wine, and a testimony to Robert Mondavi’s marketing genius.  Second, try to find at least one if not two California wines that blend in some Semillon for a creamy edge.  It’ll make your “blind” tasting more interesting if there’s a noticeable difference in style amongst the wines you select.

For Sancerre, we picked Pascal Jolivet because their wines are widely distributed, but just about any Sancerre will do – it’s always a crowd pleaser.  Mulderbosch is one of the few famous South African makers of this grape, so on the margin try to find that one if you can – it’s a worthwhile brand for your guests to know (if you’re only going to know one South African wine, this is a good one).  We added in Chile on a lark, but again the specific producer there is less important that introducing another region known for value-priced wines. 

Make sure to emphasize to your guests how food-friendly Sauvignon Blanc is.  It’s a great white wine to serve with just about any meal (with the exception of spicy foods, for which Riesling is a better choice).   Not everyone likes Chardonnay, and for that reason Sauvignon Blanc is also our choice for a white to serve at a cocktail party or as an aperitif before a meal.

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