Producer: Duck Walk Vineyards
How often have we heard Sauvignon Blanc described as "crisp"? Other adjectives are negotiable: Sauvignon Blanc may be sweet or dry; grassy or tropical; spunky or reserved; light or rich; mild or profound. To be sure, those dichotomies are legitimate, having to do with where the grapes are grown, how the wine is made, and no small dose of chance. But "crisp" - well, one who spends enough time in the wide world of wine will be excused if he comes to think that a picture of Sauvignon Blanc appears next to "crisp" in Merriam-Webster's. There is no escaping the phrase. Wine reviews, wine surveys, wine labels, wine advertisements - they all, without fail, are sure to explain just how crisp this or that Sauvignon Blanc really is. It is no less fundamental a description of the wine than "white".
But what do we mean by "crisp"? It is not easy to describe. As with any other adjective whose implication people take for granted from a very young age, to define it without resorting to mere lists of examples and roundabout categorizations is a most mischievously exacting task indeed. (If unsure what I mean here, try to define "red".) To simplify for the sake of convenience and brevity, I find that "crisp" generally refers to a distinct, even sharpness, or else the palpable potential thereof. This phenomenon is most commonly associated with the senses of sound and touch, such as with apples, paper, and autumnal air, but may certainly apply to any of the other senses as well, in this case taste via the olfactory nerves. (Most of what people taste in wine, coffee, and a hefty menu of other foods and drinks, are in fact sensed through the olfactory nerves, not the taste buds.)
The next question is, if a wine is to be called "crisp", what does that mean about the wine? Is it the flavors that are crisp? The texture? Does the liquid itself slice about the mouth? A Sauvignon Blanc may have any or all such aspects of crispness. The 2011 Cuvée Select by Duck Walk Vineyards on Long Island, New York, displays a smooth body, but a distinct sharpness of flavor that exemplifies what a Sauvignon Blanc is known to be.
Before it ever occurred to me to dissect the word "crisp" as above, I made the following note on this wine's color: "Clear, crisp, medium goldenrod. A bubble or two, but otherwise smooth." The first aromas are of melon: sweet, smooth, and deep. After a few seconds, it opens up a little, and citrus appears, but in an easygoing sort of way. It is not acidic. The entire aroma, even the citrus, is rather tropical.
In the mouth it is quite different. Riding on a full body, the citrus is much more dominant here, with notes of lemon zest and quince. An emergent acidity gives the wine a spark on the tongue. The remaining melon flavor, and a new note of nectarine, are very subtle. The texture here is smooth, but the flavor - fruity, but not tart so much as tangy - is not. By no means spicy, it is just as strong as though it were. It is pungent, in a sharp sort of way. It is - crisp. The finish is of lemon zest and pears, and it, too, is strong and pungent.
After aerating for twenty minutes, the wine is mellowed out some. The aroma is still of tropical fruitiness. Disappeared from the nose, the citrus is still dominant in the mouth, though the melon and nectarine have grown in prominence. The flavor as a whole has smoothed out to match the texture. It is still strong, but not pungent; maybe "full". My notes say "swirls of fruit". The finish now has added to it some melon.
As anyone familiar with Sauvignon Blanc has likely discerned by now, this wine can pair with a wide variety of foods. Like many whites it is also good, if chilled a bit, for simply sipping in the sun now that the warm weather is upon us. You will probably sip it among friends or family, in a backyard or similarly intimate venue to relax as a group, all convened after an busy Sunday of brunch, errands, baseball, and crossword puzzles. As you start to realize that it is almost dinner time, someone will right away reach for the wine, and someone else will get the glasses as the bottle is opened. The first glass will be about halfway finished before somebody serves snacks, then barbecue. Then the sun will signal that it will be setting any hour now, and some dessert will be served, maybe a strawberry shortcake, or a melon carved into a funny shape. Be sure, as you sip the wine, enjoying its rich texture and complexity of fruits, to take a brief moment - a pause in the conversation, a shifting of seats as someone gets up, or, best yet, a momentary retreat from the gossip for just long enough to glance over to where the lower ridge of the big, red sun is shimmering and shaking and digging the hole in the horizon into which the entire orb is about to descend - to truly enjoy it.