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Home | White Varieties | Sauvignon Blanc- The unassuming star

Sauvignon Blanc- The unassuming star

A dry, crisp and highly aromatic white grape, Sauvignon Blanc is one of the most popular white varietals in the world. While it may lack the star power and adulation Chardonnay or Riesling command, Sauvignon Blanc makes some of the best white wines in the world. Its ease of cultivation and straightforwardness in the bottle has earned it many winemaker fans around the globe. It also gives consumers a wide array of styles to choose from, depending on the region of origin.

Where is Sauvignon Blanc Grown?

While France remains the spiritual home for Sauvignon Blanc, other New World areas have used the grape to launch their own reputation for wine production. The grape is now planted in numerous countries throughout the world, all showcasing their own techniques and styles with the flexible white.

France- Sauvignon Blanc's birthplace was in the Southwest region of Bordeaux where it has been blended with Semillon for centuries. Each appellation within the region uses differing amounts of the grape and produces different styles as well. For instance, in Graves, up to 75% is used to craft dry table wines, while in Sauternes and Barsac, around 30-40% is used to produce decadent dessert wines. Yet, the grape shines brightest to the north of Bordeaux in the Loire Valley. Here, Sauvignon Blanc reigns supreme along the banks of the Loire River. The numerous vineyards found in the “Garden of France” boast significant plantings of the grape, and none are more important than Pouilly-Fume and Sancerre. While the latter does grow Pinot Noir as well, both regions have become synonymous with some of the world's best white wines.

French Producers to look for: Chateau de Tracy, Domaine Alphonse Mellot, Domaine Didier Dagueneau, Domaine Henri Bourgeois, Domaine Reverdy, Domaine Pascal Jolivet, Chateau Couhins-Lurton, Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte, Chateau d'Ygeum, Chateau Climens, Chateau Lafaurie-Peyraguey, Chateau Rieussec, Chateau Suduirant

New Zealand- Sauvignon Blanc launched the kiwi nation into world class wine status. Although the first vines arrived in the early 1800s, wine production lagged for nearly 150 years until government backing and an influx of international wine companies propelled the industry to a viable entity. While grape cultivation was focused on the North Island, viticulturists eventually began to experiment with varietals in the cooler regions of the South Island. In the early 80s, the regions of Marlborough, Nelson, Central Otego, and Canterbury began to show promise and have since shown exceptional offerings of Sauvignon Blanc.

New Zealand Producers to look for: Cloudy Bay, Neudorf Vineyards, Palliser Estate, Huia Vineyards, Isabel Estate Vineayrd, Wither Hills Vineyard, Pegasus Bay, Dog Point Vineyard, and Kim Crawford Wines.

United States-

Photo Courtesy of Arabella Wines
Photo Courtesy of Arabella Wines
Sauvignon Blanc was first transported
 to the US in the late 1800s and planted in California's Livermore Valley. Winemakers of the era crafted sweet whites with the grape and it remained popular for several decades. Eventually it fell out of favor and was not resurrected until the late 1960s when California pioneer Robert Mondavi changed its image. After a trip to the Loire Valley, Mr. Mondavi was quite impressed with the Pouilly Fume style of Sauvignon Blanc, known widely as Blanc Fume. Upon his return to California he flipped the words around and coined the Americanized term “Fume Blanc” launching a new style of US white wine production. Now California is widely planted with the varietal and its winemakers experiment with a variety of styles.

US Producers to look for: Cakebread Cellars, Spottswoode Winery, Rochioli Vineyards, Ferrari-Carano, Foley, Matanzas Creek, Cain, Chalk Hill, Angeline, Stag's Leap Wine Cellars, and Robert Mondavi.

Chile- Another New World kid on the block, Chile has recently shown its proclivity for wine production. Over the last 20 years, significant investment has been made in the country's wine industry and the benefits are beginning to show. In the Central, Casablanca, and San Antonio Valleys winemakers have steadily improved the quality of Sauvignon Blanc. Offerings from the South American country have their own unique style and rival some of the wine world's best.

Chile Producers to look for: Santa Carolina, Casa Julia, EQ, Casa del Bosque, Miguel Torres, Montes, Alta Tierra, and Erraruriz.

Sauvignon Blanc Styles

Wherever Sauvignon Blanc is made, the most prominent characteristic is its nose. Aromas springing from the glass evoke scents of lime, grapefruit, green melon, citrus, gooseberry, herbs, or even freshly mown grass. Sometimes “cat's pee” is used as a descriptor, apparently a sought after trait (although thankfully not found on the palate). In its originating home, Sauvignon Blanc is used in contrasting ways. The Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume regions of France choose to ferment the grape by itself and in stainless steel, thereby accentuating the fruitiness (citrus and green apple) and minerality to balance the inherent acidity. In Bordeaux, producers in Graves blend with Semillon and often age the wine in barrel, choosing to counterbalance its acidity with oak. The combination of those two grapes, both of which are perfect candidates for “noble rot” or botrytis due to their thin skins, are used in Sauternes to create world famous dessert wine. In New Zealand, Sauvignon Blanc takes on its own unique and powerful style while mirroring the method used in the Loire Valley. The terroir imparts different fruity aromas (tropical fruit, melons, and gooseberry) which are accentuated more than the minerality found in Sancerre or Pouilly-Fume. In California, winemakers have copied both the Loire and Bordeaux models with differing results. Many producers followed Mr. Mondavi's Fume Blanc model and produced luscious examples reminiscent of Californian Chardonnay. Yet, the trend appears to be fading and winemakers are letting Sauvignon Blanc stand on its own, drawing out the tropical and herbaceous characteristics. In Chile, the style seems to be patterned off New Zealand's lead although the wines tend to be more restrained in their fruitiness.

Wine Profile























Light to medium bodied.  California Sauvignon Blanc tend toward higher alcohol and bigger mouth feel.


Alcohol content generally less than 12-13%


Acidity levels: medium to high, generally described as crisp and clean.


Tannin: None


Sauvignon Blanc is an affordable white wine selection.  Most Sauvignon Blanc from Australia and New Zealand is less than $15.


Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume can command prices north of $30 per bottle.



To help understand your wine profile read Your Wine Profile.

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·  Primitivo - The original Zinfandel?
·  Melon de Bourgogne - A Marketing Conundrum
·  Muscat - The original grape?
·  Sancerre - Spiritual Home of Sauvignon Blanc
·  Pinot Blanc - The forgotten Pinot
·  Cortese - The bambino of the boot
·  Pinot Gris - What's in a Name?
·  Gewürztraminer - Tongue Twisting Good
·  Semillon - Easy come, easy go
·  Green Wine?
·  Chardonnay


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