on the climate, the flavor can range from aggressively grassy
to sweetly tropical. Wine experts have used the phrase "crisp,
elegant, and fresh" as a favorable description of Sauvignon
Blanc from the Loire Valley and New Zealand. Sauvignon
Blanc, when slightly chilled, pairs well with fish or cheese,
particularly Chevre. It is also known as one of the few
wines that can pair well with sushi.
with Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc was one of the first fine
wines to be bottled with a screwcap in commercial quantities,
especially by New Zealand producers. The wine is usually
consumed young, as it does not particularly benefit from
aging, except for some oak-aged Pessac-leognan and Graves
from Bordeaux that can age up to fifteen years. Dry and
sweet white Bordeaux, typically made with Sauvignon Blanc
as a major component, is the one exception.
Sauvignon Blanc grape traces its origins to western France
in the Loire Valley and Bordeaux Regions. At some point
in the 18th century, the vine paired with Cabernet Franc
to parent the Cabernet Sauvignon vine in Bordeaux. In the
19th century, plantings in Bordeaux were often interspersed
with Sauvignon vert (In Chile, known as Sauvignonasse) as
well as the Sauvignon Blanc pink mutation Sauvignon Gris.
Prior to the phylloxera epidemic, the insect plague which
devastated French vineyards in the 19th century, these interspersed
cuttings were transported to Chile where the field blends
are still common today. Despite the similarity in names,
Sauvignon Blanc has no known relation to the Sauvignon Rose
mutation found in the Loire Valley of France.
first cuttings of Sauvignon Blanc were brought to California
by Charles Wetmore, founder of Cresta Blanca Winery, in
These cuttings came from the Sauternes vineyards of Chateau
d'Yquem. The plantings produced well in Livermore Valley.
Eventually, the wine acquired the alias of "Fume Blanc"
in California by promotion of Robert Mondavi in 1968. The
grape was first introduced to New Zealand in the 1970s as
an experimental planting to blended with Muller-Thurgau.
Sauvignon Blanc is grown in the maritime climate of Bordeaux
(especially in Entre-Deux-Mers, Graves and Pessac-Leognan
as a dry wine, and in Sauternes as a sweet wine) as well
as the continental climate of the Loire Valley (as Pouilly
Fume, Sancerre, and Sauvignon de Touraine). The climates
of these areas are particularly favorable in slowing the
ripening on the vine, allowing the grape more time to develop
a balance between its acidity and sugar levels. This balance
is important in the development of the intensity of the
wine's aromas. Winemakers in France pay careful attention
to the terroir characteristics of the soil and the
different elements that it can impart to the wine. The chalk
and Kimmeridgean marl of Sancerre and Pouilly produces wines
of richness and complexity while areas with more compact
chalk soils produces wines with more finesse and perfume.
The gravel soil found near the Loire River and its tributaries
impart spicy, floral and mineral flavors while in Bordeaux,
the wines have a fruitier personality. Vines planted in
flint tend to produce the most vigorous and longest lasting
Fume originate from the town of Pouilly-sur-Loire, located
directly across the Loire River from the commune of Sancerre.
The soil here is very flinty with deposits of limestone
which the locals believed imparted a smoky, gun flint flavor
to the wine and hence FumÃ©, the French word for
"smoke" was attached to the wine. Along with
Semillon, Muscadelle and Ugni Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc is
one of only four white grapes allowed in the production
of white Bordeaux wine. Mostly used as a blending grape,
Sauvignon Blanc is the principal grape in Chateau Margaux's
Pavillon Blanc, In the
northern Rhone Valley, Sauvignon Blanc is often blended
with Tresallier to form a tart white wine.
Sauternes region, the grape is blended with Semillon to
make the late harvest wine, Sauternes. The composition
of Sauvignon Blanc varies from producer and can range from
5-50% with the Premier Cru Superieur Chateau d'Yquem
using 20%. A traditional practice often employed in Sauternes
is to plant one Sauvignon Blanc vine at regular intervals
among rows of Semillon. However, Sauvignon Blanc's propensity
to ripen 1-2 weeks earlier can lead the grapes to lose some
of their intensity and aroma as they hang longer on the
vine. This has prompted more producers to isolate their
parcels of Sauvignon Blanc.
the edge of the Chablis commune is an AOC called Saint-Bris
that is gaining attention for its Sauvignon Blanc production.
particularly the Margaret River region, the grape is often
blended with Semillon. Varietal styles, made from only the
Sauvignon Blanc grape, from Adelaide Hills and Padthaway
have a style distinctive from their New Zealand neighbors
that tend to be more ripe in flavor with white peach and
lime notes and slightly higher acidity.
early 1990s, ampelographers began to distinguish Sauvignon
Blanc from Sauvignonasse plantings in Chile. The character
of non-blended Chilean Sauvignon Blanc are noticeably less
acidic than the wines of New Zealand and more similar to
the French style that is typical of Chilean wines. The region
of Valparaso is the most notable area for Sauvignon Blanc
in Chile due to its cooler climate which allows the grapes
to be picked up to six weeks later than in other parts of
Chile. In Brazil, ampelographers have discovered that the
vines called Sauvignon Blanc planted in the region are really
1990s, Sauvignon Blanc wines from the maritime climatic
regions of New Zealand, particularly the South Island, became
popular on the wine market. Although they remain widely
distributed and critically lauded, some experts point to
a drop in quality due to the dramatic rise in demand.
In the Marlborough region, sandy soils over slate shingles
have become the most desirable locations for plantings due
to the good drainage of the soil and poor fertility that
encourages the vine to concentrate its flavors in lower
yields. In the flood plain of the Wairau River Valley, the
soil runs in east-west bands across the area. This can create
a wide diversity of flavors for vineyards that are planted
north-south with the heavier soils producing more herbaceous
wines from grapes that ripen late and vines planted in stonier
soils ripening earlier and imparting more lush and tropical
flavors. It is this difference in soils, and the types of
harvest time decisions that wine producers must make, that
add a unique element to New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.
long narrow geography of the South Island ensures that no
vineyard is more than 80 miles (130 km) from the coast.
The cool, maritime climate of the area allows for a long
and steady growing season in which the grapes can ripen
and develop a natural balance of acids and sugars. This
brings out the flavors and intensity that New Zealand Sauvignon
Blancs are noted for.
More recently, Waipara in the South Island and Martinborough,
Gisborne and Hawkes Bay in the North Island have been attracting
attention for their Sauvignon Blanc releases, which often
exhibit subtle differences to those from Marlborough (Air
New Zealand Wine Awards 2000-2006). The asparagus, gooseberry
and green flavor commonly associated with New Zealand Sauvignon
Blanc is derived from flavor compounds known as methoxypyrazines
that becomes more pronounced and concentrated in wines from
cooler climate regions.
Riper flavors such as passion fruit, along with other notes
such as boxwood, may be driven by thiol concentrations.
America, California is the leading producer of Sauvignon
Blanc with plantings also found in Washington State and
on the Niagara Peninsula and Okanagan Valley in Canada.
In California wine produced from the Sauvignon Blanc grape
is also known as FumÃ© Blanc. This California wine
was first made by Napa Valley's Robert Mondavi Winery in
1968. Mondavi had been offered a crop of particularly good
Sauvignon Blanc grapes by a grower. At that time the variety
had a poor reputation in California due to its grassy flavor
and aggressive aromas. Mondavi decided to try to tame that
aggressiveness with barrel agings and released the wine
under the name Fume Blanc as an allusion to the French Pouilly-Fume.
The usage of the term is primarily a marketing base one
with California wine makers choosing whichever name they
prefer. Both oaked and unoaked Sauvignon Blanc wines have
been marketed under the name FumÃ© blanc.
California Sauvignon Blancs tend to fall into two styles.
The New Zealand influenced-Sauvignon Blanc have more tropical
fruit undertones with citrus and passion fruit notes. The
Mondavi-influenced Fume Blanc are more round with melon
Blanc is also beginning to gain prominence in areas like
South Africa's Stellenbosch and Durbanville and Italy's
Collio areas. It
is also one of the main ingredient in Muffato della Sala,
one of Italy's most celebrated sweet wines.
Blanc can be greatly influenced by decisions in the winemaking
process. One decision is the amount of contact that the
must has with the skins of the grape. In the early years
of the New Zealand wine industry, there were no wineries
on the South Island which meant that freshly harvested
grapes had to be trucked and then ferried to the North
Island, often all the way up to Auckland. This allowed
for prolonged exposure of the skins and juice which sharpened
the intensity and pungency of the wine. Some winemakers,
like the Loire, intentionally leave a small amount of
must to spend some time in contact with the skin for later
blending purposes. Other winemakers, like in California,
generally avoid any contact with the skin due to the reduced
aging ability of the resulting wine.
important decision is the temperature of fermentation. French
winemakers prefer warmer fermentations (around 16-18 Â°C)
that bring out the mineral flavors in the wine while New
World winemakers prefer slightly colder temperatures to
bring out more fruit and tropical flavors. A small minority
of Loire winemakers will put the wine through malolactic
fermentation, a practice more often associated with New
Oak aging can have a pronounced effect on the wine, with
the oak rounding out the flavors and softening the naturally
high acidity of the grape. Some winemakers, like those in
New Zealand and Sancerre, prefer stainless steel fermentation
tanks over barrels with the intention of maintaining the
sharp focus and flavor intensity.