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Sauvignon Blanc

About Sauvignon Blanc

A king among white grapes, Sauvignon Blanc features prominently in France’s Loire Valley, where it is the primary white grape used in Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé. In Bordeaux it is a main grape for dry white-wine production, as well as one of three grapes used to produce the famous Botrytis cinerea-inflected Sauternes. And in New Zealand, it’s used by winemakers to produce grassy, aromatic white wines.

Sauvignon Blanc grapes are pale green in color which leads to equally light-colored wines. This grape buds late and ripens early, and thrives in climates with consistent sunshine and moderate heat. On the vine, it yields tight bunches of small berries that are highly susceptible to rot. It uniformly prefers cool climates, which temper it from over-ripening and keep its famously bracing acidity in check.

In Old World wines, Sauvignon Blanc is mineral, crisp and lean, with notes of green apple, grapefruit and lime zest. Loire Valley expressions often exhibit a classic gunflint tone. New World iterations of this variety tend to be a little flashier, showcasing notes of tropical fruits, freshly cut grass and stone fruit. Most Sauvignon Blanc is aged in stainless steel or neutral barrels to highlight the fresh, fruity profile of the variety. However, oaked versions—sometimes called Fumé Blanc—add layers of toast and spice to the mix.

Sauvignon Blanc in France

The most iconic Old-World Sauvignon Blancs come from France. In the Loire Valley, two appellations, specifically, are dedicated to the production of this grape. In Sancerre, soils comprised of flinty silex, Kimmeridgian clay and limestone offer complexity and a distinct minerality for which the grape is most well known. The neighboring appellation of Pouilly-Fumé produces similarly mineral wines.

The grape also factors into Bordeaux’s famed wines. Joining Sémillion and often Muscadelle, Sauvignon Blanc is responsible for the stunning dessert wines of Sauternes, in which the grape provides a crisp backbone to honeyed wines. Additionally, the grape is used in the relatively small catalogue of dry white Bordeaux wines, specifically in the appellations of Entre-deux-Mers, Graves and Pessac-Léognan.

Sauvignon Blanc in New Zealand

Perhaps the most famous of the New World Sauvignon Blanc regions is New Zealand, where, in the South Island’s Marlborough wine region, stony, sandy loam soil offer concentrated, clean expressions. New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc offers up grassy notes with gooseberry and asparagus prominent on the nose and palate. The region’s maritime climate provides a consistently long growing season, which curbs ripeness while it provides great balance and depth of flavor.

Sauvignon Blanc in California

In California, Napa and Sonoma are the main producers of Sauvignon Blanc, with many plantings also in the Central Coast. While microclimates can yield different results, many Californian Sauvignon Blancs are fruity, rounded and soft in feel, displaying more melon and stone fruit tones. Oaked versions, sometimes called Fumé Blanc, are common here, adding structure and layers of spice and toast.

Global Production

Other notable European regions that produce Sauvignon Blanc are Italy, Germany and Austria. Many of these cool-climate expressions focus on the fresh, zesty profile of the grape, with few examples aged in oak. In the New World, many Sauvignon Blancs can be found in Australia, South Africa and Chile. In Australia, the grape is commonly blended with Semillon to yield a balanced, refreshing white from Margaret River. Chile’s Sauvignon Blancs are crisp, vegetal and often well-priced, while South Africa offers a range of accessible unoaked offerings to bolder oaked versions.

Synonyms: Beyaz Sauvignon, Blanc Doux, Blanc Fumé, Bordeaux Bianco, Douce Blanche, Feher Sauvignon, Fumé Blanc, Petit Sauvignon, Sauvignon Musqué, Weisser Sauvignon

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