Once upon a time, the French divided their wines into those made from “noble grapes” and those made from everything else. Not surprisingly, most noble grapes were from Bordeaux, Burgundy, and the Loire Valley — the classical French regions.
In the past half-century, though, we’ve learned that there are dozens of grapes from dozens of other regions that can make excellent wines. Yet there is no denying that two of these once-noble grapes — chardonnay from Burgundy and sauvignon blanc from the Loire and Bordeaux — are capable of making some of the world’s best white wines.
Here is a collection of 10 that were tasted recently, some of which are classics and some of which offer good values for everyday drinking.
2012 Belle Ambiance California chardonnay ($8)
Certainly affordable, but too sugary for my taste, though it has nice vegetal notes. Recommended only for those with a sweet tooth.
2012 HandCraft California chardonnay ($10)
A little sweet, but with nice figgy and tropical fruit flavors and a hint of spritz.
2013 Dashwood Marlborough sauvignon blanc ($12)
A nice crisp wine — very tart, but pleasantly herbal and spicy with good green fruits and a note of pleasant skin tannins.
2011 Gloria Ferrer Carneros chardonnay ($17)
A very good food wine that is lightly toasted but with good mineral notes and tart-apple flavors.
2013 Charles Krug St. Helena Napa Valley sauvignon blanc ($18)
Lovely fruit aromas and juicy flavors, though a little tight in the finish — you might even want to decant before drinking. Otherwise, a well-made food wine with fresh lime notes and a clean finish.
2013 Domaine de la Perrière Sancerre ($22)
A textbook Sancerre sauvignon with tart, green-fruit flavors, full body, mineral chalkiness, and a crisp finish.
2013 CrossBarn by Paul Hobbs Sonoma Coast chardonnay ($25)
Quite nice, showing the green-fruity side of chard. A steady, though not complex wine — juicy, good body, and a tight finish.
2012 Le Domaine Saget Pouilly-Fumé ($27)
Pouilly and Sancerre are the queen white regions of the Middle Loire, and this one has mellow green-fruit flavors and some chalkiness and moderate body.
2012 Franciscan “Cuvée Sauvage” Carneros chardonnay ($35)
Wines fermented with indigenous yeasts are now more in vogue than years ago when Franciscan started making this wine, but it is still a standard-bearer for the process. It has sweet apple and brûlée flavors with toasty, fresh-oak notes and a rounded, creamy finish.
2012 Paul Hobbs Russian River chardonnay ($47)
My Pick of the Litter. An absolutely delicious wine with lovely white peach and apricot flavors and some notes of mellow red apple mixed in. It has good body, yet is lean with a long, crisp finish. Moreover, if you don’t mind waiting for good things to happen, I would cellar a case of this.