Chef John Ash shares his passion for the versatile white, Sauvignon Blanc.

By Julia Rutland
May 30, 2007
France Ruffenach

Food from the sea pairs beautifully with wines, especially whites. When considering what to pour, look for wines with "delicacy," says Chef John Ash, celebrated author, teacher, and co-founder of Sauvignon Republic winery in Santa Rosa, California. He means wines low in tannins, the bitter substances found in oak barrels and grape seeds, skins, and stems. The key to complementing seafood's inherently mild taste, John explains, is flavor: "Think of the seasoning or sauce you're preparing as the bridge to the wine." For serving with seafood, he's a huge fan of Sauvignon Blanc.

Why Sauvignon Blanc? In a word, versatility. Many people consider this varietal the easiest to pair with seafood, due to its crisp acidity. (Wine would taste dull and flat without acidity.) John says that, in the same way a squeeze of lemon gives a bright boost to simple grilled fish, Sauvignon Blanc's acidity enhances food's flavor. John Buechsenstein, a founding partner in Sauvignon Republic, concurs. "Sauvignon Blanc is food-brilliant," he says. "It's the red-wine lover's white wine."

Passion for the varietal has led these business partners to devote their entire production to versions of Sauvignon Blanc made from grapes grown around the globe. One taste of their wines and you immediately understand the importance of "terroir"―the impact that geography and the soil have on fine wines.

Flavor Guide
Although generally considered citrusy, Sauvignon Blancs may possess aromatic or buttery characteristics depending on their terroir and wine-making technique.

Citrusy: These Sauvignon Blancs make ideal palate cleansers. Or try varietals with similar characteristics, such as Pinot Gris, Pinot Grigio, dry Riesling, Alvarinho or Albariño, Verdelho, and Sancerre.

Aromatic: "Fruity, floral Sauvignon Blancs, particularly from Marlborough, New Zealand, have a fruit-basket quality," Chef John says. Wines with a similar nose include Viognier, Riesling, and Muscat.

Buttery: Winemakers often experiment with different techniques to achieve a desired buttery richness. Other buttery whites include Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, and Alsatian wines from the French-German border. "Sauvignon Blanc's range of fruit flavors highlights all of these seafood dishes," Chef John says of the following recipes. He also recommends alternative pours that work equally well with each recipe.

Ahi Tuna Seviche with Mango and Avocado

Scallops with Celery Root Salad

Asian Crab Balls

Savory Broth

Grilled Wild Salmon with Roasted Beets and Arugula

Balsamic Reduction

Grilled Shrimp with Sangrita

Seafood Brine

Oysters on the Half Shell with Pickled-ginger Salsa