Categories: Fresh and Crisp – Funky and Floral – Rich and Creamy
The Sauvignon Blanc grape is believed to originate in Western France dating back to 18th century where it became extremely popular in the Loire Valley and Bordeaux. It has been grown in the U.S. for decades and is sometimes referred to as Fume Blanc, causing some confusion, but not diminishing the popularity of this versatile grape. While styles can range from light and crisp to complex and rich when influenced by oak or lees, Sauvignon Blanc is known for its grassy, herbal qualities even leaning toward vegetable flavors like green bell pepper or asparagus.
While details remain unclear, genetic research exposed the green-skinned Sauvignon Blanc grape was somehow crossed with Cabernet Franc in Bordeaux to produce one of the most popular wine varietals globally – Cabernet Sauvignon.
Sauvignon Blanc vines flower and develop buds later than most varietals, but strangely they also ripen early in comparison. This grape thrives in moderate climates found in numerous wine regions, but can also produce stunning wines in cool climates where sunshine is plentiful and nights remain relatively warm.
As with many white wine varieties such as Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc can be made in many different styles taking advantage of everything from varying climates to wine maker’s decisions post-harvest. One of the most significant influences in the resulting wine’s style is how it is fermented. Sauvignon Blanc wines can be fermented in Stainless Steel tanks, concrete vessels (referred to as “eggs”) or in oak barrels resulting in very different styles of wine, but both remaining true to the grape’s wine making history.
Stainless steel or concrete “egg” fermented Sauvignon Blanc wines are known for high acidity and significant aromas of lime, grapefruit and gooseberry (you may have to do research on this one!). Oak barrel fermented Sauvignon Blanc wines not only exhibit influences from the barrels which allow slight oxidation and impart flavors from cedar wood to smoke depending on the age of the barrel, they also typically have a richer, creamier texture because of lees aging. Winemakers (or wizards as we like to call them) may also choose to keep the fermented wine in the barrel to age the wine which adds secondary flavors of creamy lemon, butter and creme brulee. This style also will feel heavier in the mouth as the higher alcohol coupled with barrel and lees exposure can create a slight oily sensation on the tongue.
Sadly, if Sauvignon Blanc grapes are picked too early, the resulting wines may have unpleasant levels of herbal notes and bitterness. Overly wet or poorly drained vineyards where also result in poor wine quality reminiscent of those over-cooked, soggy green vegetable flavors best left in the canned food section of the local grocery store. Thankfully, wines made from grapes that fall into this “Have Not” category rarely make it to bottling due to wine makers having access to grapes from other vineyards and suppliers. Wines from multiple vintages can be blended to overcome or minimize negative flavor profiles.
The U.S. is the world’s 5th top producing region for Sauvignon Blanc and this varietal is now the world’s 8th most widely planted grape. For white wines, only Chardonnay is more popular. One of the best attributes of this varietal is how food friendly it is. Spicier foods taste great with Sauvignon Blanc and the popularity of Asian, Mexican or South American cuisines globally has only helped these wines find more space on the shelf in wine shops and grocery stores, as well as more frequent appearances on wine lists in restaurants across the U.S.
Sauvignon Blanc is now so popular, the grape has its own holiday, International Sauvignon Blanc Day is celebrated depending on your calendar every April 24 and, or May 7!