Sauvignon Blanc is probably one of the most recognizable wines in the world, owing to its incredibly distinctive aroma, which is acidic and grassy. This is a dry, crisp white wine, although it can achieve a touch of creaminess in warmer climes or if the fruit is left a little longer on the vine. Indeed, Sauvignon Blanc, or ‘Sauv Blanc’ as it is affectionately referred to by its fans, is particularly expressive of terroir. Tracing its origins back to the Loire Valley in France, where the grape gives rise to a wine with a flinty edge, Sauvignon Blanc has for many years also been almost synonymous with New Zealand, where producers often leave a very small amount of residual sugar in the wine, resulting in a fuller, rounder flavor. In Italy, Sauvignon Blanc is principally grown in the Alto Adige and Friuli regions, and, as you would expect, it is also found further afield, in Chile, South Africa and the US, to name but a few. Interestingly, Sauvignon Blanc was not initially immensely popular in the US, but Robert Mondavi had faith in the grape’s ability to produce great wines on his home soil, and, in the 60’s, presented his Fumé Blanc style to great acclaim, capitalizing on the smoky and toasty aspects of this wine.
In France, where wines are labelled after their region and not by grape variety, Sauvignon Blanc commonly goes by the name Sancerre or Pouilly-Fumé. Whilst these are still nevertheless single varietal Sauvignon Blanc wines, the grape is also used in a blend, notably with Sémillon, whose relative ‘weightiness’ and lower acidity provide the ideal counterfoil for the zesty, more flighty notes of the former. One example of this is found in dry Bordeaux white wines: try “Lune d’Argent” from the Clos des Lunes vineyard – a minerally, fresh white with aromas of thyme and exotic fruits.
What is Sauvignon Blanc like to drink? On the nose, Sauvignon Blanc presents a certain sharpness, often compared with gooseberries, bell pepper, recently cut grass, and grapefruit. This is due to its concentration of the chemical compound, pyrazine – a trait which it shares with its offspring, Cabernet Sauvignon. On the palate, French Sauvignon Blanc wines tend to display a mineral or even smoky quality, and are relatively light, with Italian versions additionally exhibiting a greater fruitiness, often reminiscent of apricot or perhaps pineapple. New Zealand Sauvignons tends toward a more herbaceous profile, with Napa Valley in California producing still richer, punchier styles. Winemakers occasionally age Sauvignon Blanc in oak barrels, creating a lusher, almost waxy white wine.
Whatever its provenance, this is a wine with unmistakably high acidity, and an alcohol content ranging from 11.5% to 13.5%.
Which foods pair well with Sauvignon Blanc? When deriving food pairings for Sauvignon Blanc, it is worth playing on this wine’s herbaceous and zesty profile. Pungent flavors such as goat’s cheese work well, as does all shellfish and white fish more generally. Vegetable dishes are also a marriage made in heaven for Sauvignon Blanc, with any kind of grilled vegetables and herb-laden salads making a perfect match. Citrus-based sauces served with a chicken breast or pork chop would be another ideal option.
Why not try a few styles in order to find the best Sauvignon Blanc for you? Compare French with Italian or New World, blended or single varietal, oaked and unoaked… Somebody’s got to do it!