Week 3: Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc is my go-to white wine when at a bar or restaurant. It’s incredibly variable but always reliable – read on to learn more.

Sauvignon Blanc, meaning “Wild White,” is a white grape and a parent to Cabernet Sauvignon. It likely originated in the South of France and is now one of the most planted grapes in the world due to the wide range of styles and flavors this grape produces. Sauvignon Blanc is most popular in France, where it is used in Sancerre, and New Zealand, which owes much of its fame in the wine world to the grape. Recent years have seen an increase in Sauvignon Blanc plantings throughout the world as this grape is quickly becoming a favorite of all types of wine drinkers. 

Sauvignon Blanc is always a crisp and highly acidic wine. In cool climates, it tends to be more herbaceous, whereas in warmer climates it produces a more fruity wine. Common aromas include: grapefruit, lemon, lime, white peach, passion fruit, melon, tomato leaves, bell pepper, jalapeño, grass, lemongrass, wet wool, minerals, and cat pee (I seem to smell cat pee in a lot of wines!). 

Map by Henry Eng

As previously noted, Sauvignon Blanc grapes can produce a range of styles depending on where and how it is produced into wine. Some top styles and locations include:

  • In France, Sancerre is known for a chalky mineral taste – very crisp and light – reminiscent of the Loire Valley soil (if you’ve ever ordered a Sancerre, it was a Sauvignon Blanc!). In Bordeaux, Sauvignon Blanc is blended with Sémillon and aged in oak and takes on a slightly creamy taste with more honeyed and candied lemon flavors. 
  • In New Zealand, specifically in Marlborough, winemakers have used a mix of chemical research and experimentation to determine the perfect mix of terroir (soil/climate) and winemaking (strains of yeast/harvesting practices) to showcase the grapefruit and lemongrass aromas of the grape. New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc’s are always bright and fresh. 
  • In other parts of the globe, the grape showcases further characteristics. In Chile, the wine is dominated by grass and lime; South Africa by green herbs and green pepper; in the United States, where it’s called Fumé Blanc, by honeydew and white peach; in Australia, by kiwi and bell pepper depending on the region.

The green vibrancy of Sauvignon Blanc pairs unsurprisingly well with herbs and salads. It’s also great with spicy and acidic dishes and all types of cheese. I also prefer clean dishes – with few ingredients – and lots of vegetables. Avoid pairing this with red meats and overly rich or sweet dishes. Depending on the wine, this may also be a wine that’s better with food than it is on its own – especially for overly acidic or herbaceous bottles.

Fun Fact!
One of my favorite parts of New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs is that in addition to being cultivated to maintain consistency bottle to bottle they are also fairly uniform in price. You can get a good bottle for around $12 and an excellent bottle for $16!

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