Sauvignon Blanc is a green-skinned, white wine grape variety that stands out thanks to its highly aromatic character. It is known for producing wines of high acidity and light to medium-bodied. Since Sauvignon Blanc ripens early, it’s best suited to cool or moderate climates.
Sauvignon Blanc is the world’s third most popular white wine grape, preceded only by Airén and Chardonnay. While more often than not, it is made in a crisp, fresh style meant to be drunk young, there is a small proportion of regions and producers known for blending it or using oak, allowing wine lovers to appreciate a different side of the variety.
SAUVIGNON BLANC AROUND THE WORLD
Nowadays, Sauvignon Blanc is wildly popular throughout the world. It originated in France, around Bordeaux, where it is often blended with Semillon to produce white wines of fuller bodied and more nuanced aromas than many of its single-varietal counterparts. Sauvignon Blanc is also one of the varieties that can become part of the blend for Sauternes, often acknowledged as the world’s finest dessert wine.
The old world region where Sauvignon Blanc shines the brightest has to be the Loire Valley, in central France, and within it, appellations such as Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé have earned their reputation for stellar wines. However, some less famous villages can produce Sauv Blancs of great quality, and often at much more affordable prices than their more celebrated neighbours. For example, Touraine, Reuilly, Savennières and Menetou-Salon.
Outside of France, New Zealand stands out, with the Marlborough region established as the benchmark for modern new world Sauvignon Blancs, expressive, aromatic, and crisp. While this country only produces 1% of the world’s wine, it makes 15% of the world’s Sauvignon Blanc, and while there’s been some experimentation in recent years to expand the range of styles produced, the country is still a proud producer of its vibrant, high acidity best seller.
In Australia, Sauvignon Blanc lives its best life in the Adelaide Hills region and other cool-climate areas. In the Margaret River region, Sauv Blanc and Semillon blends (reminiscent of Bordeaux) are a specialty.
The South African regions of Constantia and Elgin have also taken a page from the old world school of Sauv Blanc, producing elegant Sauv Blancs, often closer to those of the Loire or Bordeaux than to its new world peers.
Also in the Southern hemisphere, Chile has become another beacon of Sauvignon Blanc, ranging from the sophisticated and delicate wines from Casablanca, Curicó, Aconcagua and the small and cool Leyda Valley, to the cheap and cheerful Central Valley wines popular all over the world.
Up in North America, Californian producers in parts of Napa Valley have developed a style of fuller-bodied Sauvignon Blanc known as Fumé Blanc (not to be confused with Pouilly-Fumé) that has developed a following.
Unoaked, unaged, entry level
As one of the aromatic varieties, Sauvignon Blanc’s most common presentation is in the shape of vibrant, unoaked wines produced in stainless steel with all efforts aiming at preserving the natural fragrant character of the variety.
At the entry level, this means affordable wines with fresh and zesty characters like citrus fruit and green apple, sometimes with a fresh-cut grass or even asparagus note that some love and some love to hate.
- Cono Sur Sauvignon Blanc – €11.50, available at SuperValu, Tesco.
- Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc – €13.99, available at Martins Off Licence.
- Cotes De Gascogne Sauvignon Blanc – €13.99, available at Molloys.
Unoaked, unaged, premium
In the hands of great producers working with premium grapes in cool regions, this style of winemaking translates into wines of high acidity, wonderful intensity and generosity of aromas that deliver in the palate as well.
- Tinpot Hut Sauvignon Blanc – €20.99, available at Martins Off Licence, Wineonline.ie, Green Man Wines.
- Château de Fontaine Audon Sancerre – €22.95, available at O’Briens Wine
- Gitton Père et Fils, Sancerre “En Creux” – €26, available at Boutique Wines
While Sauv Blanc is more often than not presented as a varietal, Semillon can complement it beautifully. This duo is the signature blend in white Bordeaux but is also found in some new world regions, notably Margaret River in Australia.
- Château Haut Rian – €13.90, available at Wines Direct
- Château Crabitey Graves – €24, available at Whelehans Wines
- Pegasus Bay Sauvignon Blanc Semillon – €31, available at wineonline.ie
When Sauvignon Blanc interacts with wood, interesting things happen. The spicier, plumper whites are relatively uncommon, but worth discovering.
California’s Napa Valley distinctive Fumé Blanc, or whites from Bordeaux’s Pessac-Léognan are often done in this style, with barrel fermentation, maturing on the lees and malolactic fermentation sometimes applied to further enhance the richness. Some New Zealand producers have also begun to experiment with this style, offering a different take on the variety.
- Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc – €24.95, available at O’Briens Wine, wineonline.ie
- Kahurangi Estate Mount Arthur Reserve Fumé Blanc 2020 – €18.75, available at curiouswines.ie
- Nutcracker Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2019 – €19.50, available at Searsons, Jus de Vine, Donnybrook Fair, MacGuinness Wine Merchants
While not that common, sparkling Sauvignon Blanc can be quite pleasant. Expect a high acidity, plenty of citrus aromas and a vibrant, intense fizz. For regions, look at New Zealand or South Africa.
While the majority of the world’s Sauvignon Blanc is dry, its natural high acidity means that it can produce sweet wines with great balance and tension. The most iconic example being Sauternes, but one can find inviting late harvest wines from Chile, New Zealand and South Africa.
Sauvignon Blanc has the wonderful effect of refreshing the palate after each sip, cutting through fatty sauces and cheeses, and making it a brilliant choice to accompany meals. As its flavours are delicate, fruity and often primary, it can be lost in the company of overly complex preparations, so it’s best alongside lighter flavours.
- For intense, sharp, premium Sauvignon Blanc – Shellfish will bring out the best in these types of wines. Accompany them with oysters or pan-fried scallops. Delicate fish dishes will also go very well with it, think sea bass or monkfish with light buttery sauces.
- For fruity, young Sauvignon Blanc – Grilled fish or chicken will pair nicely, as well as a variety of salads and light cheeses, especially goats’ cheese. For a fun and simple yet delicious combo, pair it with fish and chips.
Sauvignon Blanc-loving recipes from our archive
WRITTEN BY GABY GUEDEZ