Friday, June 13, 2014

Improve Your Tasting Skills: Sauvignon Blanc and Gooseberries

Students of wine always want to improve their recognition of wine aromas and flavors.  A great way to do this is to smell and taste wine while you smell and taste the fruit that the wine smells like. With some wines, this is an easy task, because the fruits are readily available – lemons, limes, apples, peaches, strawberries, etc. Sauvignon Blanc is trickier.

The aroma of Sauvignon Blanc is often compared to gooseberries, especially if the wine comes from a New World wine region like New Zealand.  Gooseberries aren’t common in the United States, so most of us have no idea how they taste or smell.  But I have tracked them down!  Here are some local places where you can get your hands on gooseberries.

  • Spec’s downtown location sells: 

Maintal Gooseberry Fruit Spread from Germany ($4 for 12oz)
Tiptree Gooseberry Preserves from England ($7 for 12oz)
Vavel Gooseberry Jam from Poland ($3 for 16oz)


  • Oregon brand gooseberries in syrup can sometimes be found in grocery stores, in the canned fruit aisle or with the pie filling.

  • IKEA sells gooseberry preserves.  I'm not sure if our local Houston store still stocks them, but you can order them online.  

  • Gooseberries have a secret identity!  They are sometimes called golden berries and marketed as a "super food" in health food stores.  Golden berries are usually sold dried. You can buy them at Whole Foods Market (in the super food section in the health foods and supplements aisles in the center of the store, next to the wheatgrass).  Amazon sells them too, at a slightly higher price.  In Clear Lake, the new Fresh Market on Bay Area sells dark chocolate covered golden berries in the candy/bulk section.

  • Speaking of golden berries, I've noticed in the last few days that one of the varieties of Evolution Harvest fruit and nut mix sold at Starbucks includes them (along with cashews, cranberries, and almonds).    

I've tried the Vavel gooseberry jam, the plain dried golden berries, and the Starbucks mix.  The jam tastes sweet and mild.  The dried berries have a strong, tart flavor more reminiscent of actual Sauvignon Blanc wine, so this would be my top recommendation.  The golden berries in the Starbucks mix are less tart.

Pick up some gooseberries (or golden berries) and improve your tasting skills.  Plus, it turns out they're probably good for you too!

Do you know of any other ways to get gooseberries?  I'd love to try them fresh! 

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