Sauvignon Blanc grows nearly everywhere and thus, offers a variety of styles.
Where Does Sauvignon Blanc Grow?
The roots of Sauvignon Blanc are thought to lie in the Loire valley, where the grape was first mentioned in 1534 by writer François Rabelais (it was called “Fiers”). The cool climate produces fruity, tart wine with lively acidity.
Flavors: honeysuckle, white peach, beeswax, lemongrass, saline.
Bordeaux is most famous for red wines, but in Pessac-Léognan and Graves, a few wineries make dry Sauvignon Blanc wines, typically blended with Sémillon, and sometimes the rare Muscadelle.
Unlike most other regions noted for Sauvignon Blanc, it’s common to see “lees” contact and barrels. Because of these winemaking techniques, wines taste richer, with hints of honeysuckle and stone fruit. One epitomical example is Château Haut-Brion Blanc. This top-tier white Bordeaux (~$1000 a bottle!) features a dominance of Sauvignon Blanc with Sémillon and tastes rich with brûlée and beeswax notes.
The first Sauvignon Blanc grapes were planted in Marlborough in 1975 by a daring winemaker named Frank Yukich, and plantings have steadily increased over the last four decades. Therefore today, New Zealand is a real innovator for Sauvignon Blanc.
The soils in Marlborough consist mostly of deep-draining sandy loam over gravel and enjoys a Maritime climate, which offsets the warm days with cooling ocean breezes. As well, New Zealand experiences almost twice as much UV radiation as other wine-growing regions on the same latitude, due to an atypically thin ozone layer, meaning the sun exposure is extremely high.
Wines show the incredible vibrancy of fruit and razor-sharp acidity. It’s normal to see a gram or two of residual sugar because acids are so high. Expect bell pepper, gooseberry, and passionfruit to be common, alongside more vegetal aromas of tomato stalks, rich citrus, and freshly cut grass.
Much of the best Chilean Sauvignon Blanc grows alongside Chardonnay in Aconcagua, including Casablanca, San Antonio, and Leyda Valleys. You’ll also find some intriguing stuff from Colchagua Valley and to the far north in Elqui Valley, where the vineyards line small, sun-protected steep valleys.
The area around and to the south of Cape Town enjoys rich soils and coastal winds that keep the climate cool. SA Sauvignon Blanc shares many of the characteristics of New Zealand wines – zesty, grassy, with a lot of grapefruit.
Adelaide Hills and Margaret River are names of note for Australia’s Sauvignon Blanc, cool areas that enjoy a lot of sun and temperature control from the ocean breeze.
Others: Romania, Spain (Rueda), Argentina, Hungary, Russia, Austria and America.
When in doubt, go green. Sauvignon Blanc makes a wonderful choice with herb-driven sauces over chicken, tofu, or fish dishes; matched with feta or chèvre, or paired with herb-driven Asian flavors such as Thai or Vietnamese cuisine.
- Cat pee smell in Sauvignon Blanc by Tim Atkin.
- Wine Grapes book by Jancis Robinson, Julia Harding, and José Vouillamoz
- The Passionfruit flavor in Sauvignon Blanc from volatile thiols UC Davis Study