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Sauvignon Blanc is a white wine that is light and refreshing. It has unique flavors that sets it apart from other white wine grape varieties. When tasting Sauvignon Blanc you will find tropical, tree and citrus fruit notes.
An Introduction To Sauvignon Blanc
Sauvignon Blanc, one of the world’s most distinguished wine grape varieties, is seriously underappreciated. Because the demand for it is low compared to more popular white varieties such as Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio, the price per ton of Sauvignon grapes is among the lowest of any of the so-called “noble” varieties. This keeps the price per bottle also comparatively low, making it one of the best values in fine wine.
Sauvignon Blanc, historically known simply as Sauvignon, is an ancient grape believed to have originated in Bordeaux. In 1997 DNA fingerprinting established Sauvignon as a parent of Cabernet Sauvignon, along with Cabernet Franc, and both Sauvignon and Cabernet Sauvignon share certain aromatic characteristics, most notably a certain herbaceousness. Cabernet Sauvignon is thought to be the result of a natural field crossing sometime in the 18th century.
Sauvignon in the New World has experienced a rocky career. Since the variety is prone to heavy yields that dilute the grape’s distinguishing characteristics, early examples were unremarkable, somewhat thin, and a little acidic—not the kind of wine to woo a market unaccustomed to drinking wine. Softer, sweeter white wines such as Chenin Blanc did much better.
Today we see the full spectrum of wines. This remarkable variety is capable of rendering, and it is now one of the most widely planted fine white winegrapes worldwide.
Popular Sauvignon Blanc Wine Regions
Sauvignon is usually bottled as a single variety of dry wine but partnered with Sémillon; it renders some of the world’s greatest dessert wines. White Bordeaux is probably the most elegant style of Sauvignon, achieving a superb balance of fruit, depth of flavor, and acidity. It’s also the most expensive with top examples approaching a hundred U.S. dollars a bottle. White Bordeaux is a superb wine to pair with light food courses since it is much less aggressive than other major examples, and its lighter body is less likely to compete with the delicate flavors of many fish dishes.
Sauvignon found a very happy home in the eastern Loire, and many consider the Sauvignons of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé to represent the archetype of this grape’s potential. These wines are fuller-bodied than white Bordeaux and brighter. If we might offer a color analog, Sancerre compared to white Bordeaux is like increasing the contrast and saturation of a colorful photo. These wines are striking and a little aggressive, making food pairings a little more challenging.
New Zealand Sauvignons, particularly those from Marlborough, have enjoyed almost cult-like status ever since Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc hit the market in 1986. These wines are like Sancerre reduced to primal elements. The most noteworthy characteristic of New Zealand Sauvignons is a strong gooseberry flavor that presides over a range of herbal rather than floral notes. Not a wine for the meek, but highly prized by Sauvignon lovers and attractively priced.
Sauvignon remained unfashionable in the U.S. until Robert Mondavi changed its name to Fumé Blanc in the early 1970s. His example was an excellent wine in style very unlike the French versions. It was richly flavored but not overly acidic. The flavor spectrum was more balanced, and the typical herbaceousness understated. The wine was gently oaked to give it around, mouth-filling quality. This wine remains one of the top-selling California Sauvignons to this day, along with Ferrari Carano’s Fumé Blanc, made in a similar style. The term Fumé Blanc is often reserved for Sauvignons that have received oak finishing and tend to be a little more expensive than stainless steel fermented examples.
California offers the widest range of Sauvignon Blanc styles that any other region worldwide and several wineries have made a specialty of it. Dry Creek and Brander are great examples. Brander in Los Olivos offers a full range of Sauvignon styles, which include some of the finest Sauvignon Blancs in California, including single-vineyard bottlings.
Excellent Sauvignon Blancs are now coming to us from various wine regions such as; Italy, South Africa, and Slovenia. The world is beginning to appreciate the quality and usefulness of this variety, and as palates tire of the sweet finish of so much of the world’s Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc is bound to offer an increasingly attractive alternative.