If wine is art, it is art for the nose. Much of wine's sensory appeal is in aromas, not tastes detected on the tongue. Most people think wine's smell is limited to "odors" that can be sniffed from the glass before tasting. But technically, it also includes most of what will register as "flavors" once we take a sip, as a more intense blast of aroma reaches the olfactory nerves through the airway behind the mouth. Some wines have more distinctive scents than others, and some can be more desirable in one style than in others. For example, cabernet sauvignon and sauvignon blanc are closely related, so it's no surprise that they can share an aromatic family resemblance. Both can be high in pyrazine, a compound with a distinct "green" smell, reminiscent of freshly sliced jalapeño peppers, particularly when their grapes were less than fully ripe when picked. In a red wine, this vegetal scent can be off-putting, but pyrazine can be a delightful trait in a white. In fact, it's part of the appeal of cool-climate sauvignon blancs from New Zealand. The green saladlike flavor of fresh peppers may fall flat in a rich red but can integrate nicely with the other flavors in dry, lightweight, unoaked white wines, like the bright lemon-lime and zingy passionfruit flavors in this sleek and luxurious bottling.
Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand. $14.99 (regularly $17.99; sale price through Sept. 30). PLCB Item #3597.