Jo's World,Wine

How I Rate Sauvignon Blancs ~ Bring Them On

Sauvignon Blanc is a wine that has a fascinating range.

On one end of the spectrum, there are the commodity SBs. You know, the ones that have no character, no finesse, and something important is missing (like flavors).

On the other end of the spectrum, you feel like you just finished cleaning the litter box, and the aromatics of that are still lingering in the air, and now it’s on your palate. (Oh, God!)

Then, there’s that line right down the middle. It’s got character, flavors, and lots of finesse. And, the aromatics are inviting, green pear, apple, gooseberries, tart lemons, and all’s well with the world. (Yum…)

One day, it occurred to me that I didn’t like writing about SBs, because I might have to actually write, “cat pee.” I’ve had horrors about that one, since the day I read that when men curse or are crude all is still well in the world. When women are coarse or crude, however, that’s another bowl of cherries. To actually write the word “pee” would remove me from being perceived as dainty, feminine, or politically correct. So, instead of having to say or write “cat pee,” I devised a claw system.

I describe how much I enjoy a SB by the “Cat Claw Factor.”

One Claw = Commodity SB

“Did I order water, Ms. Sommelier?”

Two Claws = Commodity headed toward being a well balanced kitty, but not quite there.

“This has hints of being a SB. I can live with it, but it’s not all that la-te-da…”

Three Claws = Perfect SB

“Ah, I’m back working at Robert Mondavi Winery, and having a SB from the Tokalon ‘old vines’ block. Yes!”

Four Claws = Just off perfect, and headed toward the litter box

“This is like a day old litter box. I can take it, but I wish I didn’t have to. Make a note to self, ’empty that thing as soon as possible.'”

Five Claws = It’s over the top with capsicum like 2-methoxy-3-isobutylpyrazine

“Call in the paramedics, I can’t breathe.”

The day I can tell it like it is, I will. Until then, it’s all about the claws, baby…

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16 Responses to “How I Rate Sauvignon Blancs ~ Bring Them On”

  1. WINE QUESTION says:

    I recently noticed that the cork was turning round inside the bottle as I tried to open the wine bottle with a corkscrew. I found that odd. Is this an indication of anything nefarious?

  2. I totally agree with your sentiments! However, when you find a good Sauvignon Blanc, it turns out to be VERY good… Not too sure about American Wines, but think my local favourite is probably Strandveld Vineyards Adamastor 2009. So what exactly does giving a wine three claws entail? *Grabs a kitchen knife and the neighbour’s cat*

  3. Jo Diaz says:

    That’s happened to me, too. A super wet cork might indicate that the cork hasn’t absorbed enough wine, and bring loose might allow a bit of air to have permeated the bottle. That can mean that the wine could possibly be oxidized. You won’t know until you open the bottle. I’ve had some great wine with a cork that turns like you’ve mentioned and the wine was just fine. You might get that one bottle over time, when the wine was a bit oxidized.

    How was your bottle of wine?

  4. Jo Diaz says:


    Ha and ouch… 🙂

    No cats are hurt int he process of my rating system. I’ll have to come up with sketched claws that are like Charlie Olken’s puffs, so no on has to run tot he neighbor’s houses with kitchen knives.

  5. WINE QUESTION says:

    to Jo Diaz, it was a cab sav, kendall jackson 2006, and seemed OK, but as I’m new to wines, I wasn’t sure if maybe I couldn’t tell if it was bad and maybe I’d get sick.

    Can you confirm if it’s possible to drink bad wine, not know it, and then get sick, or would the taste be so overwhelming bad, you’d know it before you’d get sick?

    Call me a scaredy cat.

  6. Jo Diaz says:

    I can’t confirm that, because it’s never happened to me that way, and I don’t know anyone else that it’s happened to.

    When wine is off (oxidized, corked with TCA, Brettanomyces, etc.), you know it. One taste and you want to spit it out, because it’s so out of balance. Stop at that point.

    The only sick I’ve even had was when I drank too much (in my 20s), and had to worship the porcelain god. That’s alcohol poisoning.

    I’ve also had two terrible reactions to wine, when they’ve been fined with fish. I’m allergic to fish. The first time my eyes got really swollen and it went away within a day. The next time, it was my whole face and it lasted for three days. (I now carry Benadryl, because it reduces the swelling quickly. I should have used it the second time, because it was so bad.) Each time, one of these reactions gets progressively worse… and dying from wine is not on my agenda.

    Finally, wine is anti-microbial, this means that it won’t give you diseases, so you should be just fine.

  7. WINE QUESTION says:

    Thanks Jo, I appreciate the assistance. I live in Athens, Greece. Have you ever tried any Greek wines? They are supposedly the new thing. I read an article in the NY Times how Greek wines are gaining ground in the USA.

  8. Jo Diaz says:

    Wine question…

    You’re welcome. I’m happy to help you.

    Greece… when the old becomes new again. Yes, I have been lucky enough to taste Greek wines, and was very impressed. You live in a beautiful land, from images that I’ve seen.

    Americans are, and have always been, explorers; so, this will be a great market for new Greek wines. I believe more so on the East Coast than the west. On the West Coast, we have so much California wine around us, that the majority of people out here stay with what they know, mostly from their neighbors. It’s that easy for us…. it just flows like open rivers.

    Then, we have many professionals out here, too, that are very adventurous and work for companies that allow us to be more exploratory. This blog has opened up my world to many new adventures.

    I love the wine business. It’s much more interesting that working for anything else I can think of… and I used to work for radio, photographing people like Tina Turner, the bands Chicago, Duran Duran, etc. From one exciting job to another…

  9. You are too funny Jo. Just one of the reasons we love you.

    And you know we love your cats too.

    Even if we have to kick one out of our bed! (and you know which cat that is that wanted to be with Reed!)

  10. Wine Question says:

    Recently, I tried two nice, inexpensive red wines. The first was:

    Menage a troi
    Ravenswood Zinfandel

    Both were 10.00 USD at our American military base here in Greece.

    Also, I wanted to followup with you on a few nice red Greek wines to try.

    Hatzimichalis Merlot
    LaArides amethystos

    Both are about 20.00 USD and you may be able to find them at a Greek food store in the USA, i’ve seen them before in Southern California Greek stores.

    Thanks again for you help with my wine questions.

  11. Jo Diaz says:

    Thanks for the recommendations.

  12. Greg Masset says:

    Hi Jo!
    I prefer my Sauv Blancs zippy, and a bit of cat pee never hurt a fella. But, I do recall the ends of a bottle going into the sink one morning, then my cat being scolded by Mother- she thought for sure he had an “accident”! Poor Purrsia (the Persian cat). I’ll have to forward pictures of SpareCat, our new(er) winery cat.


  13. […] Oh, yeah, got that Meow Factor going on. I rate it as  3.5 claws. Great 2-methoxy-3-isobutylpyrazine (the chemical aroma that I call the Meow Factor).  PALATE: A […]

  14. […] I cannot reiterate enough, the absence of pyrazine in all of these wines was pretty refreshing, and a step away from the predictably usual Meow Factor. […]

  15. […] grass  and grapefruit lingering finish… a very long finish. I give it Three Claws in my Cat Claw Rating system. (Three is a prefect rating, because it’s balanced.) This wine was a delicious example […]

  16. […] lemon grass and grapefruit lingering finish… a very long finish. I give it Three Claws in my Cat Claw Rating system. (Three is a prefect rating, because it’s balanced.) This wine was a delicious example […]

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