Sauvignon Blanc - White Wine Grape

Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand's signature grape...

Sauvignon Blanc probably originated in the Bordeaux region of southwestern France and was well known by the Seventeenth Century. Sauvignon Blanc is a major variety in the Bordeaux region of France and in the Sancerre and Pouilly regions in the eastern Loire Valley of France. It is an important grape in Argentina, Chile, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, where it is the signature variety, and in the United States, especially California. In a classic marketing ploy, Robert Mondavi, the famous California winemaker called this variety Fumé Blanc when he very successfully popularized it in the 1960s.

Classic Image of Sauvignon Blanc (Sauvignon) Grapes Sauvignon image first published in Victor Rendu, Ampelographie francaise, comprenant la statistique, la description des meilleurs cepages, l'analyse chimique du sol et les procedes de culture et de vinification des principaux vignobles de la France. [2nd ed.]Paris: Masson, 1857.

Illustration courtesy of the State Library of South Australia, Wine Literature of the World website.

Tastes associated with Sauvignon Blanc include straw, herbs, gunflint, citrus fruit, gooseberries, and on occasion, pipi de chat (cat pee), which in tiny amounts some people find positive. Negative tastes that arise when Sauvignon Blanc wines are unsuccessfully processed include vegetables, such as green peppers, and, you guessed it, pipi de chat. In France, Sauvignon Blanc grapes may be found in the world-famous Sauternes and Barsac dessert wines, in which the major grape variety is Semillion. Sauvignon Blanc brings body, color, and bouquet to this marriage oft made in heaven. It is also used in the dry white wine of the adjacent Graves region. Unlike most other white wines, Graves vintages may be aged up to a dozen years. Unblended Sauvignon Blanc can produce the famous Sancerre and Pouilly-sur-Loire wines that have a very different, acidic, fruity taste.

Largely because of its acidity, Sauvignon Blanc is considered an excellent companion to foods of all kinds. For example, one classic pairing is Sancerre with the Loire Valley Goat Cheese, Crottin de Chavignol. If you can’t find that particular Goat Cheese, choose another one for a lesser, but still excellent gustatory experience. Other Cheeses that successfully accompany Sauvignon Blanc wines include Sharp Cheddar, Gruyere, and Neuchatel. Sauvignon Blanc goes well with a wide variety of Fish and Seafood. At the risk of offending purists and perhaps my doctor, I have enjoyed Sancerre with Steak and greasy Fried Potatoes. The classic companion to Sauternes is Foie Gras.

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