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Varietals: Sauvignon Blanc


Sauvignon Blanc is generally grown in a cool to moderate climate (it prefers a climate slightly warmer than Riesling.)

    • Loire Valley, France
    • Bordeaux, France
    • California, US
    • Marlborough, New Zealand

The Wine in General:

  • Sauvignon Blanc is a medium-bodied wine, (alcohol content averages 11-12%.)  The color is of straw, a pale yellow color, lighter than chardonnay.
  • In general, Sauvignon Blanc has a grassy, herbaceous character that can be instantly recognizable and quite pungent. In the cooler climates of New Zealand and the Loire Valley, the wine will have more of the herbal, grassy flavors along with apple and pear flavors and aromas.  In the more moderate climate of California and Bordeaux the wine will taste and smell of citrus, melons, peaches and nectarines as well.
  • It also has a mouth-popping acidity that can tingle on your tongue if you let the wine sit there for a moment before swallowing. This makes it a great wine for pairing with food.
  • Sauvignon Blanc is best drunk when young and fresh.  Over time the vegetal flavors will overwhelm the fruit.

The Loire Valley, France:

  • Cool Climate Zone
  • Made from 100% Sauvignon Blanc
  • Most wines from the Loire Valley are named after the villages where the grapes are grown.  The most famous of these is Sancerre and Pouilly Fume. The philosophy of wine making in both of these towns has traditionally been focused on preserving the pure, uninhibited flavors of Sauvignon Blanc and the grape’s naturally high acidity.  To this end they use steel tanks or big oak barrels for fermentation and aging. Pouilly-Fume is often called Blanc Fume because the vines grow in predominantly limestone soil with some flint supposedly giving it a ‘smoky’flavor or a whiff of gunflint. This is where the name fume comes from. 
  • The aroma is of green apples, along with grassy herbal notes.  The taste of granny smith apples, tart, fresh, clean, and tangy presents itself along with some herbal flavors and a mineral tasting flintiness.  The acidity is vibrant, crisp, tingly, and mouth-watering.
  • Producers to look for: Michel Redde, Jolivet, Crochet, Bailly Reverdy

New Zealand:

  • Cool Climate Zone
  • 100% Sauvignon Blanc
  • Sauvignon Blanc is this nation’s most highly acclaimed varietal. Due to the cool climate and use of steel tanks for fermentation and aging these wines are similar in style to the wines of the Loire Valley. The taste and aromas present flavors of grapefruit, lime, green apples, and citrus.  There is the characteristic grassy aroma as well.  The acidity pops in your mouth.
  • Producers to look for: Babich, White Haven, Kim Crawford, Cloudy Bay, Villa Maria, Brancott

Bordeaux, France:

  • Moderate toWarm Climate
  • Sauvignon Blanc is usually blended with another grape variety called Semillon.
  • Oak barrel fermentation and aging
  • Because of the barrel fermentation and aging these wines will have a bigger mouth-feel.  As the wine gently oxidizes in the oak it gives it a fuller body and less acidity. The wood also tints the wine a little giving it more  yellow in the color  and adds a layer of toasty, creamy, vanilla.
  • Lush tropical fruit presents itself on the nose and the palate.  Grapefruit, lime, citrus, ripe nectarines, melons.  This wine is softer, plumper and smooth.  The addition of Semillon gives a richness, more body and depth with honeyed overtones and a hint of sweetness. The Sauvignon Blanc gives it gives it a snappy, mouth-watering acidity. As a blend it has the ability to age a little longer. 
  • Producers to look for: Chateau La Louviere, Chateau Carbonnieux, Chateau Smith-Haut Lafite, Blanc de Lynch Bages

California, US:

  • Warmer climate
  • Use of oak barrel fermentation and aging (not always)
  • There are many different styles of Sauvignon Blanc produced here.  Some modeled after the clean, crisp wines of the Loire Valley and some are more like the wines of Bordeaux. These wines have a tropical fruit scent and flavors of citrus and melon.  The ones aged in oak will have less acidity and a plumper feel in the mouth. They are medium-bodied.
  • Producers to look for: Matanzas Creek, Robert Mondavi Fume Blanc, Grgich Hills Fume Blanc, Simi, Honig, Joel Gott, Ferrari-Carano Fume Blanc, Iron Horse

What is Fume Blanc?

Fume Blanc originated in the 1970’s when Robert Mondavi renamed his little known and poorly selling Sauvignon Blanc to Fume Blanc giving it the glamour of it’s French counterpart. Today, most, but not all, makers of California Sauvignon Blanc give their Fume some oak aging and add a little Semillon so that the Fume Blanc is less like the Poully-Fume of the Loire Valley and more the style of white Bordeaux. 

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