- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Santa Rita, Sauvignon Blanc Reserva, Casablanca Valley, Chile, 2008, $12

Sauvignon blanc is America’s second-favorite varietal white wine, following chardonnay but leading pinot grigio, Riesling and all others. Because the better sauvignons tend to be imports, the rise in sauvignon sales offers proof that American wine drinkers are global consumers. Especially in tough economic times, we care about quality more than native pride.

While the Loire Valley in France and Marlborough in New Zealand remain the world’s leading sources of high-quality sauvignon blanc, savvy shoppers should note that Chile, particularly the cool Casablanca Valley, does not lag far behind. Top Chilean sauvignons taste fresh and vibrant, with vivid grapefruit-scented fruit flavors and a crisp texture. Neither as mineral-rich as their French counterparts nor as aggressive as some Kiwis, they taste extremely refreshing. As a bonus, they almost always are reasonably priced.

The 2008 Santa Rita Reserva, made with grapes harvested last spring, exemplifies the vivacious Chilean style. It tastes clean and bright, with a core of warmth behind its initially cool facade, so it is ideal for springtime sipping. Try it with seafood - especially shellfish - or dinner salads, dishes that themselves taste fresh and will be enhanced by its energy.

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