Glasses of White WineBright and Crisp: Sauvignon Blanc

An amazingly versatile white wine, Sauvignon Blanc is now very popular. Some versions, a bit on the distinctly grassy style, appeal to wine lovers, notably those Sauvignon Blancs from New Zealand with their assertive aroma characteristics. But milder styles of SB, such as the more melon-y scented from warmer regions of California, can be extremely appealing as well. The Loire Vally of France produce the benchmark examples of this wine, Sancerre. They exhibit bright acid, crisp minerality with aromas and flavors of neutral citrus (not distinctly grapefruit, but a combination of citrus notes).

Plant in: Sauvignon Blanc is a hardy grape that grows almost anywhere, but prefers lighter soils in cooler climes. When grown in heavier soils, Sauvignon Blanc often yields a more grassy kind of aroma. When planted in warm areas, Sauvignon Blanc must be picked earlier to preserve the varietal character.

Harvest Expectation: Sauvignon Blanc is best picked at mid-season; if harvested too late, it can make for a clumsy dry wine.

Best Climate Regions: Slightly warm to warm. When grown in places as warm as the Napa Valley, Sauvignon Blanc may be a bit on the edge of the high side, and should be picked slightly earlier to capture varietal character. These can be classically California in style as opposed to the (cooler-climate) styles of Sauvignon Blanc such as Sancerre from the Loire Valley.

Vigor: High. It is easy to grow too much Sauvignon Blanc and that can make for a diffuse wine.

Clusters: Small and with small berries.

Countries where Sauvignon Blanc grows well: France’s Loire Valley (more earthy in Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé); New Zealand; Dry Creek Valley; Russian River Valley (though it makes a stylistic variant); Bordeaux (Dry White Bordeaux wines usually are dominant with Semillon); South Africa, Chile, and even Austria.

Details on importance to the world scene: Sales of this wine were slow until Robert Mondavi created the term Fumé Blanc in 1966 for a Sauvignon Blanc varietal wine. Today it is a very popular variety (partly with wines that have no varietal character!). Chile now makes some stylish Sauvignon Blancs from cooler regions, such as Casablanca Valley.

Classic Styles: Bone dry with aromas of herbs, green olives, hay, grass, tomato leaf, and tarragon. There can also be a slight “brine”-y characteristic to some Sauvignon Blancs.

Style made recently (non-classic versions): The New Zealand style with gooseberry, “cat pee” and other exotic almost floral characteristics.

Aging (in winery, in consumer cellars): Huge potential, though few people understand this. Older Sauvignon Blancs can be terrific.

Marketing: It is easier these days to sell Sauvignon Blanc since it is in demand.

Food suggestions: Wide. Sauvignon Blanc is best with more delicate foods, but more herbal types go with seafood, and some bone-dry versions are best with oysters.