When it comes to Sauvignon Blanc, the latest news is startling. Earlier this year, Moscato—celebrated in hip-hop hits by Drake, Lil’ Kim and Waka Flocka Flame—shoved Sauvignon Blanc aside to become the third-most-popular white-wine variety in America (after Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio). This is an ignoble fate for a noble grape, though it’s possibly a testimony to the unlikely power that hip-hop stars wield over the US wine market.
But Sauvignon Blanc has always been a love-hate proposition, much like cilantro or beets. Some people adore it, and some people flat-out can’t stand it. What captivates people about Sauvignon Blanc is its crispness, its citrusy zing, its refreshing vivacity—all those qualities that make it one of the best wines for hot summer days. It’s an edgy wine, tart by nature, which is why acid heads, as they’re known in the sommelier world, are all for it. On the other hand, for fans of big, buttery Chardonnays (or soft, sweet Moscatos), that thrilling acidity may seem shrill and harsh.
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An even bigger problem for Sauvignon Blanc is that it sometimes smells and tastes like a green vegetable, specifically bell peppers. Some people find this pungency appealing, particularly when it’s relatively subtle and reminiscent of fresh-cut grass. Others—my wife, for instance—find it revolting. In fact, when I asked her recently why she didn’t like Sauvignon Blanc, that was the word she used. She also said it reminded her of the Wicked Witch of the West: “It’s green, pinched and nasty.” She made claws with her hands to emphasize Sauvignon’s Wicked Witch-ness and added matter-of-factly, “It’s really everything I loathe in the world.” And then she left for work.