The Grape Variety Series - Sauvignon Blanc
Love it or hate it, Sauvignon Blanc is arguably the most distinctive white wine grape there is. Sometimes subtle, sometimes distinctive depending on the region and the method of wine-making, but always recognizable with its grassy, citrus notes.
Sauvignon Blanc is fresh and zippy, like a garden after a rainstorm. In cooler climates, it’s an English country garden with wet stone pathways framed by nettles and elderflower. In warmer regions it’s tropical, with mango trees among the citrus and the heady scent of freshly cut grass.
A signature style
Cut grass, lemon citrus and elderflower are key tasting notes for Sauvignon Blanc. Add to that asparagus and tropical fruit and you’ll know you’re somewhere in the New World. Famously zesty and fresh on the nose and palate. It’s usually unoaked, though there are some regions that use wood and more experimentation is happening with this worldwide.
The absolute classic food match for Sauvignon Blanc is goats cheese, not least in its original French home of the Loire Valley. The punchy grassiness tames and complements a fresh, creamy goat’s cheese beautifully. With seafood, sauvignon is also a must, especially if there’s batter involved.
Here’s a tasting tour of the most famous places in the world for Sauvignon Blanc:
Loire Valley, France. The villages of Sancerre, Pouilly Fumé, Reuilly and Menetou-Salon in the Loire are a good place to start your Sauvignon Blanc journey. Each makes a slightly different style, but in general they are the more delicate sauvignons when compared to the rest of the world.
New Zealand. Sauvignon Blanc has chosen New Zealand as its spiritual home. Though the styles vary according to region, like in France, generally speaking a New Zealand sauvignon will have a distinct and characteristic intensity, with perfume jumping out of the glass. While undeniably more powerful and flavorsome, they can also be incredibly elegant.
Try: Cloudy Bay
Marlborough is where you should head for a classic New Zealand sauvignon and it is here that the iconic Cloudy Bay – who started the global trend for the grape – is based. Loved for its pronounced and grassy flavors, Cloudy Bay gave wine drinkers a wine style they could instantly recognize.
Bordeaux, France. While much more famous for its reds, Bordeaux makes some stunning dry and sweet white wines too. Sauvignon Blanc is one of the key grapes used for these, though it’s usually blended with Sémillon. Sauternes is a famous sweet wine where sauvignon plays a huge part.
Try: Château d’Yquem Sauternes
With 75% Sauvignon Blanc (and 25% Sémillon), this famed wine is the most prized of all Sauternes producers. With rich notes of marzipan and citrus with candied orange peel and honey, this wine really shows what sauvignon can do in France.
Chile. For inexpensive, punchy sauvignon, Chile is a good bet. Head north to the Leyda Valley for wines with some serious potential.
Napa, California. Chardonnay used to be the darling white grape of Napa, but these days there has been a surge in Bordeaux-style sauvignon, which sees the addition of oak. Mouth-filling and textural, these kinds of wines have notes of coconut that works very well with food.