The Line 39 sauvingon blanc is a $10 California grocery store white that has remained dependable for years
If more grocery store wine tasted like the Line 39 sauvignon blanc, the Wine Curmudgeon wouldn’t get nearly as many emails and comments from blog visitors bemoaning availability.
This vintage of the Line 39 sauvignon blanc ($10, purchased, 13.5%) is a little more disjointed than previous efforts; that is, all of the parts don’t fit together as neastly as they have in the past, and the wine has some rough edges. Having said that, it is still California-style sauvingon blanc – a little grassy aroma, some citrus fruit (lime, perhaps, but not grapefruit), and a clean and refreshing finish.
In our California sauvignon blanc hierarchy, the Line 39 fits below Ryder and Wente – not quite as layered as either of those, but that’s OK since it’s a couple of dollars less. If it’s not quite up to the $10 Hall of Fame quality of past vintages, it’s still a fine value.
This is wine for roast chicken thighs marinated in olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, and rosemary, as well as something to drink when you get home from work and feel like a glass to soothe the rigors off the day.
Line 39 sauvignon blanc: Dependable grocery store white wine, offering the kind of value we need more of
There are two important things to know about the Line 39 Sauvignon Blanc. First, that it’s sold in grocery stores across the country. Second, that it’s one of the few examples of wine made for grocery stores that offers varietal character, quality, and value.
In this, it’s one of eight wines from Line 39, all of which are made to taste like they’re supposed to and (usually) widely available. The sauvignon blanc is my favorite – not necessarily a great wine, but a dependable one, so that I know I can buy it to have with the ingredients for spaghetti with clam sauce.
This year’s vintage is a touch less citrusy and has more lemongrass than previous efforts. But the minerality in the back is nicely done, and there’s a dollop of pleasing tropical fruit in the middle. It’s what we need more of — professional cheap wine you can buy at the grocery store and enjoy.
Line 39 is one of five labels owned by Cecchetti Wine, which makes it a sort of Big Wine company brand. In this, the sauvignon blanc can teach the rest of Big Wine a thing or two.
That’s because the Line 39 Sauvignon Blanc ($12, sample, 13%) does something too many Big Wines don’t — offers more than the one flavor that dominates everything else, on the theory that’s all cheap wine consumers want or understand. Instead, it makes the step from the quality $10 wine that it has been over the years to outstanding $10 wine that we don’t have enough of. This may be the best Line 39 sauvignon blanc vintage yet.
Look for muted citrus (lemon-lime) in the front, some tropical fruit in the middle, and a richness that previous vintages didn’t have. This is exactly what quality sauvignon blanc should taste like, regardless of price, and that the citrus is muted puts in squarely in the California style. Plus, the wine doesn’t have any of the bitterness in the back that too many $10 wines expect us to endure as the cost of paying that little.
In the old days, which in wine means the end of the 20th century, sauvignon blanc came in three styles — California, French, and New Zealand. Each tasted like sauvignon blanc, but was just enough different from each other to be noticeable. Some time after that, the first two styles started to merge toward the third, so that most sauvignon blanc tasted like grapefuit. That’s because the New Zealand style was about as trendy as trendy gets, and we know how the wine business loves a trend.
Fortunately, the styles have started moving back to where they used to be, and especially in California. I’ve tasted a variety of delightful California sauvignon blanc over the past 18 months, where grassiness — the smell of a freshly-cut lawn — is the predominant note. There is also citrus and tropical fruit, but those don’t overwhelm the grassiness, and the wines are refreshing and enjoyable.
A fine example of this change is the Line 39 ($10, purchased, 13.5%), which has worked its way from New Zealand to California over the past several years. In this, it was always more than adequate, but has improved the more California in style that it has become. The 2012, which is apparently the current vintage though a bit old, is grassy, with lime fruit and rich mouth feel. All of this makes it more than just another grocery store sauvignon blanc. Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2015 $10 Hall of Fame.
Here ?s today ?s metaphysical question: Is Cecchetti Wine Company, which makes Line 39, an artisan producer because it ?s family-owned, or part of evil Big Wine because its owners once worked for the company that makes Pepperwood Grove, about as $7 a grocery store wine as it gets?
Sometimes, we make wine harder than it needs to be.
It ?s also interestingly different from the ?09, with less fruit and more California grassy-ness (the smell of a freshly mowed lawn that is a hallmark of a certain kind of California sauvignon blanc). Look for some lime zest and a sort of slate finish ? all clean and crisp. This is nicely done wine that, if it not quite $10 Hall of Fame quality, is the sort of thing to keep chilled around the house so it ?s handy when you feel like a glass.