Sauvignon Blanc wine grape
Today a truly international variety, known and planted the world over, Sauvignon’s rise has been quite recent. Until the Eighties it was mostly confined to the Upper
. Its success in New Zealand’s Marlborough region, coupled with the Nineties’ backlash against Chardonnay and oak, led to it being enthusiastically planted all over the globe.
It probably originated in the upper Loire rather than Bordeaux. The earliest references to it are from the Loire, and DNA analysis has shown that it is a child of
, which itself originated in or near north-east France and was unknown in western France. Its name refers to its similarity in leaf shape with wild (Fr.
vines, which is further evidence for its orgin in the Loire: wild vines occur there but not in Bordeaux.
However, it was after spreading to Bordeaux that it took part in the most famous vine union of them all, when it spontaneously crossed with
. In Bordeaux it is usually blended with Sémillon, especially in the oaked and ageworthy dry whites from Pessac-Leognan and the great botrytised sweet wines of Sauternes, though varietal unoaked dry wines are becoming more popular. Sauvignon/Sémillon blends are also important in other regions, such as Australia’s
In the Loire it is invariably used on its own, and most of the rest of the world follows suit, including Marlborough, whose pungent “cat’s pee on a gooseberry bush” style has superceded the less fruity and more austere style of Sancerre as the world’s template for this variety.
Wine from Sauvignon Blanc typically has high acidity and pronounced ‘green’ scents and flavours (grass, nettles, fresh peas, goooseberries). However, these are caused by light- and temperature-sensitive pyrazine compounds, and only occur in early-picked wines from reasonably cool climates. Tropical fruit flavours, especially passionfruit, emerge in riper wines, but overripe wines from hot climates tend to be just vaguely fruity and soft, prone to oxidation.
Sauvignon Blanc doesn’t normally age well, except when made as a dessert wine and/or blended with Sémillon, though the best Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé can improve for a few years. Older Marlborough-style Sauvignons tend to develop odd “stewed asparagus” vegetal flavours. Enjoy them young!
Decanting Club wines containing: Sauvignon Blanc
From Maharashtra, India
Fratelli, Classic Chenin
From Margaret River, Australia
Deep Woods, Ivory, Semillon Sauvignon Blanc
From Bekaa Valley, Lebanon
Château Ksara, Blanc de l'Observatoire
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