Sauvignon Blanc – crisp, dry, refreshing! As weather remains most definitely on the warm side here in Florida there is still time to lick your lips and indulge your taste buds in this delicious staple of the wine world.And as there are so many areas of the wine world which produce Sauvignon Blanc, why not gather some friends together and have a Sauvignon Blanc wine tasting? It would be a perfect chance to sip, explore and talk about the differences that terroir brings to this grape.
Sauvignon Blanc seems to have originated in France, though there is some disagreement as to whether it first grew in Bordeaux or the Loire Valley. Not that it matters, because both areas still produce classic expressions of the grape.
The most famous of these expressions in the Loire come from the famed areas of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume. These wines show a rich complexity and tight acidity with pronounced minerality. Styles can vary even within these small AOPs, depending on soils that can be primarily clay/limestone/marl or gravel/limestone or flint (silex).
In Bordeaux, particularly in the sub-region of Pessac-Leognan, the wines tend to be fruitier, but still with a gravelly minerality and high acidity. Sauvignon Blanc here is often blended with Semillon and occasionally Muscadelle, and is sometimes fermented in oak (while the wine in most other areas is usually not).
New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc came out of nowhere a few decades ago and became a popular favorite as well as the beginning of New Zealand’s international wine reputation. The wines have a fresh in-your-face zip and zing that definitely wakes the taste buds up. They are bold, intense and herbaceous, with concentrated flavors of tropical fruit, citrus, passionfruit and gooseberry. Most NZ Sauvvies come from Marlborough at the northern end of the South Island. There can be some slight differences of style here, as well as in other areas of the two islands.
Another up-and-coming country that produces very good Sauvignon Blanc is Chile, particularly in the cooler coastal area of the Casablanca Valley. These wines are often less acidic than New Zealand’s version – a little more French in style with grass, lime and juicy tropical notes.
Sauvignon Blanc from South Africa is also on the rise, and along with their Chenin Blanc is fast becoming one of their flagship white wines. These wines often show green herb and green pepper aromas and can be seen as a midpoint between French and New Zealand styles.
Here in the US we get some excellent Sauvignon Blanc from California (particularly Napa and Sonoma) and from the Columbia Valley in Washington State. California Sauvignon Blanc is sometimes called Fumé Blanc – originally a marketing ploy of Robert Mondavi back in the 1980s. Either term can be used but Fumé Blanc often suggests a wine fermented in oak.
Much of Australia is too hot for good Sauvignon Blanc, but certain coastal niches such as the Adelaide Hills, Tasmania and Margaret River offer wines that are riper than their New Zealand neighbors, with good acidity and peach and lime notes.
These are just some of the areas of the world that give us Sauvignon Blanc, but they offer a broad spectrum from grassy to mineral to tropical that should bring a lot of enjoyment to your wine tasting party. Have fun!
Bill Stobbs, ABC Fine Wine & Spirits wine and spirits supervisor
Follow me on Twitter @abcwinebills