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A Summery Look at Sauvignon Blanc

  • The wine is crisp, refreshing, very easy to drink and, best of all, it’s generally pretty affordable.
 Andi Healey

 Web Manager


The recent (and hopefully, upcoming) warm weather has many of us reaching for a refreshing glass of white wine, and Sauvignon Blanc is often the first choice. And rightly so, the wine is crisp, refreshing, very easy to drink and, best of all, it’s generally pretty affordable. Its high acidity and broad range of flavours make it extremely versatile in food and wine pairings, and it's in dealing with the acidity that Riedel glasses come into their own, tempering the harshness and really allowing the fruitiness to shine through.

Many wine drinkers love an ice cold glass of Sauvignon Blanc, though most don’t actually know much about the noble grape variety. Here are eight of the most common questions about Sauvignon Blanc that you’ve always wanted to ask, but didn't even know it.

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What is Sauvignon Blanc?

Sauvignon Blanc is a white wine grape variety that is grown all over the world. The Sauvignon blanc grape traces its origins to western France in the Loire Valley and Bordeaux Regions. Its name most likely comes from the words for ‘wild’ (sauvage) and ‘white’ (blanc) in French.

What does Sauvignon Blanc look like?

Sauvignon Blanc is a green-skinned grape variety that is used for white wine production. When ripe, the grapes are round in shape and hang in small, compact clusters. The variety buds late and ripens early, making it a perfect match for sunny regions.

A bunch of Sauvignon Blanc Grapes

Where is Sauvignon Blanc from?

Sauvignon Blanc originally hails from the Bordeaux region of France. In the 1700s, Sauvignon Blanc was crossed with Cabernet Franc to produce the Cabernet Sauvignon grape.

A relatively robust, vigorous vine (which explains its popularity with viticulturists), Sauvignon adapts readily to all kinds of growing environments. Because it ripens early, it can be grown in relatively cool climates – its Loire homeland being the most obvious example – while its naturally high acidity allows it to retain a level of freshness even in warmer areas. However, to achieve the true zing that best characterises Sauvignon Blanc wine, a cooler terroir is needed, ideally with persistent bright sunshine and a dry harvest period.


Where does Sauvignon Blanc grow?

Sauvignon Blanc grows in various wine-producing regions all over the world. Regions with large amounts of Sauvignon Blanc plantings include Bordeaux and the Loire Valley in France, the South Island of New Zealand, the Margaret River region of Australia, California, and Chile. It is the eighth most-planted grape variety worldwide, with over 275,000 acres cultivated, split almost half and half between Europe and the New World.

The rapid development of Sauvignon Blanc in the Marlborough region of New Zealand is one of the most dramatic events in the world of wine. The popular, intense and readily accessible flavour of a classic Marlborough means that Sauvignon Blanc accounted for around 85% of New Zealand's wine exports last year.


Sauvignon Blanc Vineyard comparison graph

What does Sauvignon Blanc taste like?

Sauvignon Blanc has a broad spectrum of taste profiles, depending on the region from which it comes. For example, Sauvignon Blanc from Old World regions (Bordeaux, Loire Valley) will tend to be more mineral-driven and flinty, whereas Sauvignon Blanc from New World regions (New Zealand, Australia, California) will tend to have more grassy, tropical fruit flavours.

Possibly more than any other wine, I have come across some strange and interesting perceived flavours and descriptors, including Lime, Green Apple, Asian Pear, Kiwi, Passionfruit, Guava, White Peach, Nectarine (I can get those) and also Green Bell Pepper, Basil, Jalapeño, Tarragon, Lovage, Celery, Lemongrass, Box of Chalk, Wet Concrete (Really!! If my wine tastes of Jalapeño and Wet Concrete I’m sending it back!)


Why does Sauvignon Blanc sometimes taste like grass?

“Grassiness” in wine comes from compounds in grapes called aldehydes, which are more prominent in some grape varieties than others, with Sauvignon Blanc being one of them. Rather unsurprisingly, they are also found in grass.

How should I serve and pair Sauvignon Blanc?

Sauvignon Blanc made in stainless steel should be served ice cold to highlight its refreshing qualities, while wines with oak ageing should be served slightly chilled.

Sauvignon Blanc pairs well with fresh cheeses like chèvre or ricotta, green vegetables, white fish, squid, octopus, or scallops. Sweet Sauvignon Blanc wines, such as sauternes, pairs with most desserts, especially those with baked fruit, but also complement intense, rich foods like pâté or blue cheese.


There is also one classic pairing of Sauvignon Blanc that started in the Loire Valley. Close to Sancerre (about 2 miles away) there is a goat's cheese produced called Crottin de Chavignol and it has an international reputation as an outstanding stinky-creamy cheese. A bite of Crottin with a splash of Sauvignon Blanc is considered by many to be a perfect pairing.

How much does Sauvignon Blanc cost?

The price of Sauvignon Blanc ranges all over the spectrum, from inexpensive bottles going for £5 a pop, to more refined examples (such as Sancerre) ranging from £15 to £50, to the insanely luxurious dessert wines of Chateau d’Yquem (in which Sauvignon Blanc plays a backup role to fellow white grape variety, Sémillon) going for tens of thousands of pounds per bottle!


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On a personal note, when we did our Comparative Wine Tasting in October last year I tasted the nicest Sauvignon Blanc I've ever had (Esk Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2018 from The Wine Reserve in Cobham):

"True to its Marlborough origins, its flavours are a mix of ripe tropical fruits, citrus and cooler notes of green fruits and fresh herbs. It is rich and full bodied but a crisp dry finish provides freshness and length."

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