It is Sauvignon Blanc Day this Friday the 24th April and so here are ten things you to know about this wonderfully diverse and iconic grape variety. Now the weather has blossomed (thankfully) and the temperatures are rising, a crisp, dry Sauvignon Blanc is just the ticket for a beautiful spring evening. Pair it with some beautiful seasonal produce like some wild sea trout, spinach and jersey royal new potatoes and you’re in for a real treat.
We will leave you to our top ten and these wise words told to CellarVie Wines by the wonderful Oz Clarke after the Three Wine Men
"Spring is here. Yippee...bring out your Sauvignon Blancs - as fresh and crunchy and crisp as a Bramley apple straight off the tree!"
As if we needed any more encouragement…
1. Sauvignon Blanc is originally from Bordeaux
Sauvignon Blanc has been used in Bordeaux for centuries, where it is considered the traditional home of Sauvignon Blanc. The Bordelais have long been blending the grape variety with Semillon to add further depth and complexity, although Sauvignon first became fashionable as the grape used for Sancerre wines.
“On these limestone and clay hills [of Sancerre and Pouilly] bisected by the upper reaches of the River Loire, in a near-continental climate, Sauvignon Blanc can make better, certainly finer and more complex, wine that anywhere else in the world”
The World Atlas of Wine, Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson
2. Did you know?
Sauvignon Blanc is one of the most widely planted wine grapes in the world. There are over 275,000+ acres of Sauvignon Blanc planted worldwide.
Sauvignon Blanc’s naturally high acidity makes it very food friendly. Its classic herbaceous character means it is a great match for herbs, and dishes with parsley, basil, coriander and mint, which will complement the wine. It partners very well with white meats, fish and shellfish. Foods and dishes that are high in acidity will be ideal to eat with Sauvignon, as the similar levels of acidity will make the wine taste vibrant and refreshing. A traditional Sauvignon-food match is a simple, citrus-focused fish dish such as this one. For those cheese and wine fanatics out there, it also combines very well with Chèvre and other acidic cheeses like Feta and Pecorino (view our cheese and wine guide with two Masters of Wine here).
Sauvignon Blanc is typically medium bodied, high in acidity and almost always dry.
A cool climate like the Loire or Marlborough allows Sauvignon Blanc to show its herbaceous-aromatic character, although it can be grown in moderate climates like California and Australia too. Its key characteristics are normally grassy, herbaceous, minerally and fruity. If grown in too warm a climate, it can tend to lose its distinguishing aroma and acidity.
The Loire Valley
5. Did you know?
Along with Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc was one of the first wines with a screw cap to be sold for commercial consumption.
6. Popular regions
Bordeaux, Loire (Sancerre, Pouilly-Fumé, Touraine), New Zealand, California, South African (Stellenbosch)
Sauvignon Blanc is often late budding and early ripening, which helps explain its suitability for cool climates like Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé. Separated by the Loire River, these appellations produce whites of a fantastic quality and fresh acidity.
Sauvignon Blanc varies hugely in style from one side of the world to the other, and the Loire valley is one of the most iconic, Old World regions where Sauvignon Blanc reigns.
Sauvignon Blanc is also grown with much success in the New World, most notably in New Zealand and in particular Marlborough), the Casablanca Valley in Chile, California and South Africa.
7. Loire Valley vs Marlborough
Many now consider Marlborough, New Zealand, as the new home of this popular varietal, not the Loire Valley, although the first Sauvignon Blanc vines weren’t planted in Marlborough until 1975. It is becoming increasingly common in New Zealand to experiment with fermentation and maturation in oak, but the classic ‘New Zealand Sauvignon’ is medium-bodied, dry, with high acidity, no oak and flavours of passion fruit, gooseberry, green pepper and blackcurrant leaf. New Zealand Sauvignons will typically have a more aromatic nose than their Loire counterparts, and Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire will be more mineral in flavour. Similar to the classic New Zealand Sauvignon, the large majority of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé reaches its full potential within a year or two of bottling, and does not benefit from extensive ageing in the bottle.
“There’s no more thirst-quenching wine than a snappy, crunchy young Sauvignon Blanc. Let’s celebrate it.”
Oz Clarke, Pocket Wine Guide
8. Don’t get caught out!
Pouilly-Fumé and Pouillé-Fuissé are very different. The latter is from the Mâconnais sub-region of Burgundy and despite being made from Chardonnay it is often confused with the similarly named Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) Sancerre.
9. Did you know?
83% of New Zealand Wine exported in 2013 was Sauvignon Blanc
10. Use of Oak
Oak is sometimes used, particularly in the US, which can change the character of the wine. The oak influence creates a creamier style and the naturally high acidity of the grape variety is softened by this introduction.
Other producers, primarily those in New Zealand and Sancerre, show a preference towards steel fermentation tanks instead of wooden barrels which retains the sharp focus and flavour intensity of the Sauvignon Blanc grape.
Main blog image: Yealands Estate Wines Ltd, Marlborough, New Zealand