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Wine Grape Varietals 101

Sauvignon Blanc

What is Sauvignon Blanc

Pronunciation: SOH-vin-yon BLONK

Sauvignon Blanc is a white-wine grape variety indigenous to France and now planted widely internationally. It is known for its distinctive flavors including fresh herbs, grapefruit and melons. Sauvignon Blanc wine is generally light to medium-bodied and has crisp acidity.

Sauvignon Blanc grapes are used mostly in dry table wines, blended with other varieties (often Semillon) or made into sweet, late-harvest style wines.

Sauvignon Blanc grapes form on the grapevines in small to medium-sized clusters of a green-yellow color that attach closely to the canes. The grapes have a distinctive bell pepper flavor while ripening. The vines can be very vigorous on fertile soils and can yield large crops.

Sauvignon Blanc Synonyms

In California, Fumé Blanc and Savagnin Musque. In France, Sauvignon Jaune, Blanc Fumé, Surin and others. In Germany, Muskat Silvaner and Feigentraube.

Sauvignon Blanc Regions

Sauvignon Blanc vines have been grown in the French regions of Bordeaux and the Loire Valley for several centuries and are still popular there.

In France, where the grape variety is known simply as Sauvignon, Bordeaux dry-white wines are commonly made in a blend with Semillon and/or Muscadelle grapes. These are labeled as a blanc (or white) wine of the particular grape-growing appellation, such as Pessac-Leognan Blanc or Entre-Deux-Mers Blanc.

The grape is used for sweet wines in the Sauternes and Barsac districts of Bordeaux made from primarily Sauvignon and Semillon, which are left on the vines in the autumn for a late harvest when they are sweetest in flavor. A natural mold, Botrytis cinerea, grows on the grape clusters and has the beneficial effect of shrinking the grape berries and concentrating the juice inside.

In the Loire Valley, the appellations of Sancerre and Pouilly-sur-Loire are well known for Sauvignon Blanc, and the name Blanc Fumé (smoky white) is used there. This encouraged Robert Mondavi in California to name his Sauvignon Blanc wines Fumé Blanc in the 1960s, and several wineries still use this term to describe oak-barrel-aged Sauvignon Blancs.

Sauvignon Blanc is also found all over the world. New Zealand wineries in recent decades have had great success exporting their dry and herbal-tasting Sauvignon Blanc wines to the U.S. In California, it is also a fast-growing white wine type. Chile, South Africa, Australia and Spain all have significant acreage of Sauvignon Blanc grapes.

Sauvignon Blanc Tasting Notes

Wines made from Sauvignon Blanc have an extraordinary range of aromas and flavors. The New Zealand style is famously herbaceous, grassy and pungent in aroma. Expect more floral and citrus tones from the Loire Valley and full-bodied, barrel-aged versions from Bordeaux. Flavors of Californian and Chilean Sauvignon Blancs range from snap peas, honeydew melons, flinty and mineral.

Sauvignon Blanc grapes are found in sparkling, white, and dessert wines.

Structural Characteristics

Low Medium High
Alcohol levels
Low Medium High
Low Medium High
Tannin Structure
Low Medium High

Examples of Sauvignon Blanc to Try

Handling Tips

45-55°F / 7-13°C
1-5 years

Fun Facts

  • Sauvignon Blanc is a parent variety of Cabernet Sauvignon, due to an apparently accidental cross with Cabernet Franc in France centuries ago.
  • Chateau d’Yquem is perhaps the most globally famous wine containing Sauvignon Blanc grapes. They make up 25% of a blend with 75% Semillon grapes. The botrytis-affected sweet wines of this historic chateau in the Sauternes district of Bordeaux can age and improve for many decades.
  • Sauvignon Blanc vines have at least two mutations. Sauvignon Rouge vines develop dark-colored berries and Sauvignon Gris vines grow gray or pink-colored berries.