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The French say that wines made from the sauvignon blanc grape smell like cat piss. But then, great, old red burgundy — made from the pinot noir grape — is supposed to smell like merde. Or so the French say. Being only a humble American citizen myself, I find that wines made from the sauvignon blanc grape are often sharp on the nose, marked by acidity (though occasionally rounder than that), usually somewhat herbal, perhaps figlike, or even suggestive of English gooseberry preserves. There are innumerable permutations, in fact, for this is a grape that flourishes in many different countries and many different climates. The white wines of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fum� in the Loire Valley of France are made 100 percent from the sauvignon blanc. Few if any of these wines see time in oak barrels, and the result is something fresh and full of zip, excitingly clean and fragrant. In contrast, most dry white Bordeaux is a blend of the rather acidic sauvignon blanc grape and the richer semillon grape. Aged in new oak barrels, the top dry white Bordeaux are lanolin-smooth, with subtle mineral notes, becoming slightly honeyed on the nose with time. Elegant is — or should be — the word. The best recent years to look for are 1996 and 1998. Perhaps surprisingly, 2000 — a great year for red Bordeaux — is much less promising for the whites: too plump and, thus, not quite acidic enough. You’ll find sauvignon blanc grapes also grown in the Napa and Sonoma valleys of California; in Chile; in Australia; and, with perhaps the greatest fanfare of recent days, in New Zealand. Whether these are made in the Loire style or that of Bordeaux probably depends more on the wine maker than on the soil. For our case of the month for September, I’ve assembled a mixed bag of fresh Loire Valley wines, stylish dry white Bordeaux, and some New World charmers. One thing to bear in mind: 2002 is a great year for Loire wines. Snap them up while you can. Made with the Sauvignon Blanc � 2002 Sancerre (Ch. de Sancerre), $15 � 2000 Pouilly-Fum� (Ladoucette), $19 � 2000 Sancerre “La Croix” (Lucien Crochet), $19 � 1999 Sancerre (Lafond), $22 � 1998 Ch. Carbonnieux (Graves), $25 � 1998 Ch. La Louvi�re (Graves), $27 � 1998 Domaine de Chevalier (Graves), $76 � 2000 Grgich Hills Napa Valley Fum� Blanc, $18 � 2000 Duckhorn Vineyards Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, $27 � 1999 Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, $35 � 2002 Brancott Reserve “Marlborough” New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, $14 � 2001 Cloudy Bay New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, $24

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