Sunday, April 18, 2010
Searching for a summer white
As the winds of spring return to the aptly-named Windy City of Chicago, I am once again conducting my annual search for an inexpensive white that I can enjoy with friends throughout the summer. While I enjoy many different white wines over the season, I like to buy a case of one in particular and dub it my summer white.
I have one bottle left from the case I bought last spring, which I admittedly purchased blindly. I was perusing the product list from Sam’s Wine and Spirits (which was bought last year by Binny’s Beverage Depot), using the search tool. I selected Sauvignon Blanc, because I really love this varietal, and had the list sorted by price. I wanted something cheap, but good too.
At the top of the list was this curious bottle with a whimsical lable: Chat ‘O Souris, a Languedoc wine from Vin de Pays D’Oc. The description sounded intriguing: I can’t recall it precisely, but it focused on its “crisp and bright flavor” and “dry finish.” What sealed the sale for me, however, was the price: listed at $8 per bottle, if I bought a case, I could have it for $7 per bottle.
Now, I don’t normally do something like that – order an entire case of wine without having tasted it first. I attempted to do a bit of research online to find out more, but turned up empty handed. So with trepidation I went to Sam’s to search for the wine among its aisles of racks and crates and bins. But no Chat ‘O Souris could be seen. I asked a clerk who went to the back to search – she said that it should be on the shelves. She knew what I was looking for, speaking highly of the wine, particularly for its price point. Words like “crisp” and “bright” came from her lips, and then she uttered a key phrase: “with a hint of grass.” She returned with a case to unload on the shelf and asked me how many would I like. Then she made a casual comment that they didn’t have a lot left, maybe one more case.
“I’ll take that case,” I said quickly.
When it comes to Sauvignon Blanc, I like them grassy. While I have enjoyed many a citrusy Sauvignon Blanc, these wines tend to be heavy on the grapefruit, which for me can get a bit boring. But there’s nothing like a delightful grassy Sauvignon Blanc with a finish so smooth it’s like tasting a spring day itself. Karen Crawford’s fits this description, but at $17 a bottle, I don’t often pick one up. Villa Maria is another classy and grassy bottling, but at $12, I’m always thinking I can find something cheaper. Something like a Flinders Bay Pericles, which even has a hint of bell pepper. Would the Chat ‘O Souris fit that bill?
Yes and no. As the whimsical name for the wine suggests – roughly translated as “Cat and Mouse” or “Cat or Mouse” – this wine has a bit of duality to its character. When chilled, this wine has citrus clearly at the forefront, particularly grapefruit. It is indeed crisp and light, with a smooth finish. Let it warm up, however, so that it is only cool rather than cold, and the hint of grass starts to come through; however, the finish gets a bit acidic. Regardless, at $7 a bottle, I was very happy.
So will I successfully find another summer white for 2010? I’m not buying a case blind again, so I have begun some tastings. I recently tried the 2009 Overstone Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, which I picked up for $8. Like many out of New Zealand and the Marlborough district, there was some grassiness to this wine, but it seemed to lack any oomph. In fact, it kind of struck me as pale. At that price point, it was good, but not one I want to buy a case of.
Which mean the search continues.
I rate the Chat ‘O Souris 2008 bottling with a 7. The Overstone I rate with a 5.