Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc is a green-skinned white grape variety planted throughout many of the world's wine regions. With early origins from the Loire Valley and Bordeaux region in France, the best Sauvignon Blanc grapes are among the biggest success from the Loire Valley, having spread worldwide. Areas acknowledged for producing fine varieties include California, Chile, South Africa, Australia, and with New Zealand considered among the best. Also known as Fume Blanc, this is not a different variety, but rather a marketing invention crafted by California winemaker Robert Mondavi. His Sauvignon Blanc wine was not selling well, but by changing the name to "Fume" and changing production methods, an increase in sales resulted.

Sauvignon Blanc vines are vigorous and upright in their growth, grown in short bunches with small, broad leaves and thick skins. The flavor ultimately depends on the climate in which it is grown in, but flavors can range from grassy to sweetly tropical. Historically, the Bordeaux region of France produces rich and sweet varieties that are usually served as dessert wines. While the Sancerre region tends to produce wines that are dry and steely. Sauvignon Blanc wine was among the first wines bottled with a screw cap, along with the Riesling. Typically consumed young, it usually does not benefit from any aging.

History

Known as one of the six noble grape varieties in France, in the 18th century, the Sauvignon Blanc plant was paired with the Cabernet Franc to parent Cabernet Sauvignon. In the 1880s, Sauvignon Blanc was first brought to California by the founder of Cresta Blanca Winery, Charles Wetmore. The plants thrived in the Livermore Valley, and obtained the designation of "Fume Blanc" by Robert Mondavi in 1968. Sauvignon Blanc was introduced in New Zealand by the 1970s. Plantings are also extensive throughout Australia, Chile, and South Africa, and are found in Italy and Central Europe as well. As white wine drinkers seek out alternatives to varieties such as Chardonnay, the popularity of this white wine is steadily increasing.

1832 began a new chapter in the history of Sauvignon Blanc wine when the grapes were cultivated by Australian wineries. The warm climates of Australia and New Zealand make for excellent conditions in which grapes thrive. Some of the most sought-after sorts have come from these regions. The best Sauvignon Blanc wines from Australia are highly acidic with flavors of grass, gooseberry, and a woody smokiness.

Terroir

Sauvignon Blanc Terroir

An easily adaptive plant, Sauvignon Blanc is grown in a variety of climates, but tends to do best in sunny climates without too much intense heat. The vine tends to bud late but ripen early, so when subjected to high heat it will become over-ripe, producing flat and dull wines. Rising global temperatures have also caused growers to harvest grapes earlier than in the past.

In France, the maritime climate of Bordeaux and continental climate of the Loire Valley act to slow the ripening on the vine, which lets the grape develop a balance between its acidity and sugar levels. This is important in order for the intense aromas to fully develop. The elements of the soil impart different characteristics to the wine. The chalk and marl soil found in the Sancerre and Pouilly areas of the Loire Valley produce rich and complex wines, while chalk soil will produce wines with greater perfume and finesse. In Bordeaux, this blend is known to have a fruitier personality, while the hardiest and longest lasting wines come from vines planted in flint. In the region of Sauternes, the grape is blended with Semillon to make Saurternes, a late harvest wine. The blend varies between producers from 5-50%, with the Chateau d'Yquem using 20% in their Premier Cru Superieur.

Although California is the leading producer of best Sauvignon Blanc wine in North America, it is also found in Washington State as well as in Canada. Production in California didn't really take hold until Robert Mondavi experimented with barrel aging in order to tame the grassy flavor and aggressive aromas that gave the wines from the area a poor reputation. It was also at this time that he changed the name to Fume Blanc. In California, the grape is grown throughout the entire state, ranging from the north to south coast, inland, and in the Sierra Foothills. Each of these areas have their own unique climate, soil, and topography. Warmer regions such as the Central Valley, Sierra Foothills, and areas of Sonoma and Napa tend to produce a fruitier sort, while the Coastal regions or Russian River produce more herbal varieties. But overall, California's terrior produces some very good varieties if not the best Sauvignon Blanc wine.

New Zealand is a highly-regarded producer of the best Sauvignon Blanc wine and has been popular since the 1990s. Plantings in sandy soils over slate shingles concentrates the flavors in the vine, and is favored in the Marlborough region. Different soil types in the Wairau River Valley lead to wines ranging from herbaceous to lush and tropical, due to differing ripening times. In the South Island, a long and narrow geography ensures that the vineyards are no more than 80 miles from the coast. This cool maritime climate lengthens the growing season, and the grapes are able to fully ripen and develop a natural balance of acids and sugars. During the early years of the wine industry in New Zealand, the lack of wineries on the South Island meant that the harvested grapes were trucked and ferried to the North Island, sometimes up to Auckland. The result was a sharpened intensity and pungency of the wine, due to the prolonged exposure of the skins and juice. These stronger flavors are often still found in New Zealand.

In the Margaret River region of Australia, Sauvignon Blanc is often blended with Semillon, as in Sauternes. The one produced in the areas of the Adelaide Hills and Padthaway tend to be riper in flavor with notes of peach and lime and with a higher acidity than those produced in neighboring New Zealand.

In Chile, the Sauvignon Blanc wine is similar to that found in France, and noticeably less acidic than the one found in New Zealand. The Valparaiso region is especially noted for producing some of the best Sauvignon Blanc since its cool climate allows the vines to be picked six weeks later than other parts of Chile. Growers in Chile also harvest their grapes at various intervals as in New Zealand.

It is also gaining in popularity in South Africa, particularly in the areas of Stellenbosch and Durbanville, as well as the Collio area of Italy.

Suggested Food Pairings

Sauvignon Blanc wine is an extremely versatile white wine variety, known as fresh, crisp and acidic among wine experts. Due to its lean taste profile, it doesn't lend itself well to dishes heavy on butter or cream. Some of the best Sauvignon Blanc wine possesses qualities of sweet melon and citrus, yet it can also lean towards herbs and grass. Therefore it goes very well with dishes utilizing leafy green herbs. Slightly chilled, this wine pairs well with seafood and cheese, especially Chevre and smoked cheeses. It is also regarded as one of the few wines that go well with sushi. It also tends to complement pungent flavors such as bell peppers and raw garlic.

Below is a sample meal based around a crisp Sauvignon Blanc wine with a medium amount of acidity:

Appetizer: Grilled marinated prawns with fresh melon salsa

Salad: Spring green salad with Chevre and citrus in caramelized bell pepper vinaigrette

Entree: Risotto of lobster and sea vegetables with English peas and asparagus

Dessert: Lemon gellato

It is recommended to serve this wine between 43 degrees and 48 degrees Farhenheit.

Top Brands

top brands of sauvignon blanc wines

If you're looking to buy the best Sauvignon Blanc wine, as an extremely popular variety, it can be found from around the world very inexpensively. New Zealand is known for producing some of the best Sauvignon Blanc, and the $15 2010 Kim Crawford from the Marlborough region is no exception. This light bodied white wine is described as maintaining mild grapefruit and gooseberry flavors with a touch of lime. For a great California blend, look to the $20 Banshee 2010 Sauvignon Blanc. Described as possessing a medium body texture and elements of citrus, melon, and sweet grass, it finishes brisk. Another great blend comes from the Loire Valley in France. The 2009 Claude Riffault Les Boucauds runs for $20, and is also light-bodied with lime, tangerine, and pear flavors. A less expensive but excellent blend is Jacobs Creeks' Semillon. Very reasonably priced at just over $10 per bottle, this product is described as having citrus and tropical fruit flavors that combine in a crisp and clean finish. If these wines have peaked your interest and your taste buds, you can buy from our online wine shop to get your bottle.

As you can see, Sauvignon Blanc wine is a versatile and complex white wine. When it comes to purchasing a great bottle of wine, don't be afraid to experiment. There are many producers and varieties to suit just about any taste.