By Vincent Clarke May 5, 2015 Comments Off

The Sauvignon Blanc grape dates back to 18th century France, where it gained early notoriety in the Bordeaux vineyards and Loire Valley. It is thought to be a relative of the much older Savagnin, which is used in Carmenere and Jura. Cross it with Cabernet Franc, and you get the noble Cabernet Sauvignon.

The Grapes

The vines of the Sauvignon Blanc bud late but ripen early. The best quality Sauvignon Blanc grapes develop in climates like those in California, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and – of course – Bordeaux, where conditions are more temperate.

Sauvignon Blanc has a rich history among California winemakers that dates back to the late 1800s. It is believed that the first cuttings of Sauvignon Blanc were brought to the region from Château d’Yquem by Charles Wetmore, who in turn planted them for his own vineyards in Livermore, Cresta Blanca.

Today, the popularity of Sauvignon Blanc is on the rise. It stands as the eighth most commonly planted wine grape worldwide, and when compared to other white wine grapes, it is second only to Chardonnay. Sauvignon Blanc is so popular nowadays that it even has its own holiday. May 17 is set apart annually as International Sauvignon Blanc Day.

The characteristics of the grapes vary quite a bit. The differences generally depend on decisions made by the winemaker in terms of certain variables. Some choose to let the grapes remain in contact with the skins longer than others do. The longer it sets, the more intense the flavour of the wine will be. The offset of that, however, is a decrease in age-ability of the wine.

The Wines

Sauvignon Blanc pairs best with fresh seafood. Many wine connoisseurs agree that there is nothing else comparable to drinking it with oysters on the half shell. It fairs well when paired with a variety of other seafood dishes, particularly with shellfish. It also goes well with a variety of cheeses, salads, and vegetables, and some even laud it as the perfect accompaniment for certain poultry dishes.

Variations in Expressions

Temperature during the fermentation process is also a determining factor in the character of the wine. At warmer temperatures, the wine will develop a higher minerality, while cooler temperatures will bring out aromas and flavours of tropical fruits.

When it comes to blends, the zenith of the Sauvignon Blanc is reached in the iconic Bordeaux. In past times, the grape was extremely popular in the Bordeaux region and was the dominant varietal in Entre-Deux-Mers. Today, it is found in use more frequently in the sweet whites of Sauternes, in Graves, and in Pessac-Léognan.

Sauvignon Blanc Blends

Regardless of the growing region and whether the wine is dry or sweet, Sauvignon Blanc is often blended with Semillon. It is also the dominant wine grape used in the production of many dry white Bordeaux varieties of the Medoc. The dry Bordeaux wines have a range of characteristics, from the flavour and texture of waxy tart citrus to the aroma of freshly cut grass. The sweet whites of Bordeaux take on strong notes of honey and tropical fruits.

Sauvignon Blanc Today

Even though Sauvignon Blanc had fallen out of favour in America for quite some time, it has enjoyed a steady increase in popularity among winemakers in the U.S. over the last several decades. Some of California’s best wines are based or blended with Sauvignon Blanc, and wine tasting enthusiasts are sure to find a broad range of varieties to sample and compare.

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