How Average is California Sauvignon Blanc?
Just how average (or below average) is California Sauvignon Blanc?
I was thinking about this today when I opened what turned out to be a really beautiful SB from Dry Creek Valley. Nice grassy component, citrus, pear, slightest hint of melon, zero wood, great backbone. I loved it.
Now there was a time when Dry Creek Valley in Northern Sonoma was considered a great place to plant Sauvignon Blanc. But you don’t hear that much anymore. In fact, it seems that Lake County is the only place really trying to make a reputation on the grape.
But I got curious. How are California’s SB’s ranked and rated? Wine Spectator has a very searchable database of scores. So I went there. I wanted to know what percent of CA Sauvignon Blancs scored 90 points or above and what percent scored less than 80 points.
I was kind of shocked. The percentage of California SBs over 90 points seemed very low. So I started looking at the percentage of SBs from a couple different CA appellations that scored 90 points or above. Then I started looking at non-California SBs that scored 90 or above. Then I started looking at all white wines reviewed and all red wines reviewed and all wines in the Wine Spectator database that were scored 90 points or above. In every case I stuck to the 2005-2007 vintages.
It doesn’t look to me like the Wine Spectator is very impressed with CA Sauvignon Blancs. In fact, it doesn’t look to me like the Wine Spectator magazine is too impressed with the Sauvignon Blanc grape in general. It turns out that no varietally labeled Sauvignon Blanc produced anywhere in the world from the 2005-2007 received more than 93 points from the Wine Spectator. And there were only 4 such wines out of the 1,121 that were reviewed.
Of all Sauvignon Blancs rated by the Wine Spectator from these three vintages only 9% received 90 Points or above.
In the August 31 issue of the Wine Spectator there was an article on California Sauvignon Blanc. I went to it to figure out what the magazine thought good California Sauvignon Blanc tasted like:
"The best examples are crisp and refreshing, with a fragrant profile and juicy fruit flavors."
I can’t argue with this description of what the best California Sauvignon Blancs should taste like. You can’t argue taste. But there’s no question that The Wine Spectator finds Sauvignon Blanc in general lacking compared to all other white wines and California Sauvignon Blanc in particular to be lacking by comparison to all other wines.
Interestingly, if you look at reviews of Sauvignon Blanc from The Wine Enthusiast from the same vintages we see a kinder appreciation for the varietal. 18% of California Sauvignon Blancs receive 90 points or better.