Prefer your whites on the drier side? Nice and fruity with a trademark crisp finish? Then you’ll likely be familiar with Sauvignon Blanc, famed the world over for producing delightfully refreshing aromatic wines. Follow its journey from the old world to the new, with some key characteristics and pairing suggestions along the way.
Sauvignon Blanc, like so many of our most popular grapes, can trace its origins back to France. It is most likely to have been first planted in Bordeaux, where it then moved to its heartland in the Loire Valley.
While varying in style depending on climate and growing conditions, Sauvignon Blanc stands out for its high level of acidity and lots of fresh, zesty fruit flavours.
In the coolest regions, such as Northern France, the predominant flavours are grass, green apple and green pepper. Whereas in warmer areas, it has more ripe, tropical flavours like peach and passionfruit.
The Sauvignons of the Loire Valley, such as Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé, are among some of the most famous names in white wine. Here the cool climate and limestone or slate soils produce wines with grassy aromas, and a flinty or sometimes even smoky quality.
Although better known for their reds, Bordeaux has long been associated with Sauvignon Blanc and still produces some amazing examples. Here it is usually blended with Semillon to make some outstanding and complex wines. It also makes up a small, but important, part of the blend in the prestigious sweet wines of Sauternes.
As is the way with many other varieties, here the New World has taken a European grape and made it their own. New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is one of the most renowned and distinctive styles of wine around today.
Here the cool climate, particularly around the Marlborough region, is perfect for producing Sauvignon Blanc with its trademark fresh acidity, while long hours of sunshine ensure well ripened grapes that are bursting with zesty citrus and gooseberry flavours.
Sauvignon Blanc is at its best in a cooler climate and, surprising as it may be, Australia does in fact boast some cooler regions where the variety can thrive. Western Australia, particularly the Margaret River area, is the most famed for producing premium wines thanks to its Bordeaux-esque climate. Unsurprisingly, Bordeaux variety grapes tend to do best here, making it ideal for delicious Sauvignon-Semillon blends.
Although Australia is not renowned for its single varietal Sauvignons, cooler areas such as Adelaide Hills in South Australia or Tasmania do make some lovely aromatic wines, often with more tropical flavours than those of their Kiwi neighbours.
The north of Chile is suitably cool due to the influence of the Pacific Ocean, allowing it to produce some excellent Sauvignon Blancs. The limestone soils of the Limari and Elqui Valleys are particularly well suited, and make wines with notes of elderflower and grass that are similar in style to those from the Loire Valley.
Rest of the world
Other notable producers of Sauvignon Blanc include the cooler regions of South Africa, such as Elgin and Constantia, where wines often have a more tropical flavour with a trademark herbaceous quality to them.
In North America, California is the main region for Sauvignon production. It offers a softer, barrel-aged style, sometimes called Fumé Blanc, which was made famous by wine pioneer Robert Mondavi as he sought to improve the reputation of this grape. While popular at the time, nowadays many modern Californian winemakers favour a crisper, New Zealand style.
Sauvignon Blanc is a versatile pairing for an impressive variety of cuisines.
Crisp acidity: pair with goats cheese or sushi
A Loire Sauvignon Blanc is a perfect match for local goats cheese, where its crisp acidity works wonders to cut through the creaminess. This style also matches well with the delicate flavours and textures of sushi.
Aromatic: pair with Thai curry or Asian-style seafood
New Zealand Sauvignon certainly packs a punch when it comes to flavour, well-known for its instant floral aromas and citrus zing in your mouth. These characteristics make it the perfect companion for spicy, aromatic dishes such as Thai green curry and Asian-style seafood.
Oaked: pair with creamy chicken or veal dishes
The Bordeaux style of Sauvignon blends can be a trickier match, and the perfect food pairing depends on whether it is oaked or not. For oaked and Fumé Blanc styles, chicken or veal is a great match. This is especially true when accompanied by a creamy sauce, as these richer styles have the weight and complexity to stand up to the heartiness of the meal.
Unoaked: pair with oily fish or garlic prawns
The unoaked styles are often more citrusy in flavour, so pair well with fish, particularly oily fish such as sardines and mackerel. They also stand up well to stronger flavours like garlic prawns.
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If you love your Sauvignon, but want to broaden your horizons, try a deliciously crisp Picpoul de Pinet from the South of France. Like Sauvignon Blanc, it has bags of zesty citrus and tangy green apple flavours, plus a mouthwatering finish.
If you’re looking for something that has a touch of riper fruit flavours and a little less acidity, a good choice would be a Spanish Verdejo. The best known examples come from the Rueda region and make a nice, easy-drinking wine for the summer months.
For something a little different, the Austrian grape Grüner Veltliner has a similar level of acidity and body, and a crisp green apple flavour. At times, it also has an intriguing hint of white pepper, so it’s a great option if you fancy trying something new.
So now you know that there’s more to Sauvignon Blanc than Marlborough, why not get acquainted with a glass or two from our vibrant selection?
Browse our selection of over 600 different Sauvignon Blancs from around the world.
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