Sauvignon Blanc (saw-VEEN-yawn blah-nk)
Cat pee, gun-smoke, cut grass, hay, straw, and gooseberry, are flavors synonymous with one wine: Sauvignon Blanc. A white wine, Sauvignon Blanc is one of the more versatile wines in the world. With high acidity, this wine is typically drunk young, but can be cellared to develop layers of vegetal aromas of asparagus and peas that many people enjoy. Sauvignon Blanc is planted widely around the world and it represents it’s terroir by throwing off-flavors that are synonymous of where the grape is grown. Sauvignon Blanc flourishes in France, New Zealand, as well as California, South Africa, and Chile. Sweet, dry, off-dry, oaked or unoaked, Sauvignon Blanc can be found in almost any style.
In the Loire Valley, France, Sauvignon Blanc flourishes in the Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé regions and produces some of the best Sauvignon Blanc in the world. The vines grow in the cool continental climate characterized by short summers, and long, cold winters. Typically aged in neutral oak or stainless steel, this wine has a distinct characteristic of gun-smoke and the occasional whiff of cat’s pee and grass. In Sauternes, near Bordeaux, Sauvignon Blanc is blended with Semillon to create one of the most luxurious dessert wines in the world.
Across the world, Marlborough, New Zealand contributes a large amount of export Sauvignon Blanc for the world to enjoy. With distinct notes of citrus, grapefruit, and hints of stone fruit like apricot and peach, the maritime climate lends itself to the bright acidity and tangy flavors. Two valleys in Marlborough; Wairau and the Awatere give distinct flavors to its Sauvignon Blanc. Typically aged in stainless steel, the bottles are all adorned with, albeit controversial, the screw cap.
Cooler microclimates in the warmer regions of California, South Africa, and Chile, produce good examples of Sauvignon Blanc and the flavors typically produce more citrus and riper stone fruit qualities. In California, adding a stronger influence of oak to Sauvignon Blanc has been quite popular. In 1968, Robert Mondavi attempted to change the poor reputation of the wine. Typically grown for mass consumption and picked to early, gave the wine strong vegetal and grassy aromas. To tame those flavors he decided to age the wine in new oak and released the wine under the name, Fumé Blanc, a take-off on the French Sauvignon Blanc found in Pouilly-fum.
Today, Fumé Blanc is a marketing name and winemaker’s can choose if they want to label their wine with Sauvignon Blanc or the moniker, Fumé Blanc. In California today, it is not uncommon to find that most bottled Sauvignon Blancs do have some oak influence to produce the round, rich mouth feel that American’s yearn for. With the influence of New Zealand’s stainless steel Sauvignon Blanc that is being exported in mass quantities, people are beginning to appreciate the clean, fresh, lively taste of a unoaked Sauvignon Blanc.
In summertime, white wine becomes a cool, refreshing beverage on a hot day. Try these refreshing white wine picks and determine what style of Sauvignon Blanc that you like to drink best!
2009 Chateau St Jean, Sonoma, Fumé Blanc
Brilliant lemon colored wine that suggests oak aging, this wine has a grassy, lemony, grapefruity aroma followed by the distinct smells reminiscent of oak aging. With medium acidity, the wine has flavors of mineral, tart peach and pear, and matches the nose with flavors of grapefruit and lemon.
2010 Domaine Cherrier & Fils, Sancerre, France
Light in color suggests little barrel aging, but the richer mouth feel comes from lees-stirring. Flavors of green apple, fresh lime, kiwi and honeydew melon.
2010 Mohua, Marlborough, New Zealand
Zippy acidity with a nose of dried pineapple, dill and grass. With a smooth texture, this wine has sweet tropical fruits and citrus notes on the palate.
2010 Cakebread, Napa Valley, California
Aged in neutral oak, this wine maintains the lively citrus quality, while the influence of oak rounds out the mouth, creating a richer wine. Flavors of honeydew, gooseberry, and grapefruit with shy vanilla notes linger on the palate with a hint of spice on the finish.
2009 Chateau Grillon, Sauternes, France
Hand-picked individual grapes picked infected by noble rot contribute to the full, rich, ripe flavors of dry fruit, honey, toasted almonds, and orange zest.