What Is Sauvignon Blanc

Article published Jan 23, 2019
Article by Ben Godfrey - Wine Buyer, Mr.Wheeler

Sauvignon Blanc's popularity seems to grow and grow, with no signs of this changing just yet. As the British palate has developed a taste for drier, more aromatic whites, Sauvignon Blanc has come into its own. Few varieties can match its fragrant, zesty and refreshing youthful appeal.

There is disagreement as to whether Bordeaux or the Loire Valley in France is the varieties true home, but today it is in the Loire that it is found at its vibrant best, most notably in the appellations of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé. Here on the free draining, calcareous soils it seems to suck nutrients from the ground and present them in mineral laden wines that in warmer years exhibit ripe, yet discreet, tropical fruit flavours and in cooler years more of a gooseberry character.

There are those, however, who like their Sauvignon a little more pungent and intense, and for this they look to New Zealand. The variety is almost solely responsible for raising the New Zealand wine industry to the heights that it has now reached, due in no small part to the popularity of the Sauvignon Blancs from the region of Marlborough in particular. Here the Sauvignon bursts with gooseberry, greengage and passion fruit, and with this fruit comes a distinctive elderflower note that can develop more towards asparagus and cut grass. The purists will say that the subtelty of French examples and greater minerality make them superior wines, but for many the intensity of the Sauvignons from New Zealand is just too good to miss out on.

Sauvignon's tentacles are reaching further afield today. It is not new to South America but the vineyard area is increasing rapidly in Chile and Argentina and South African producers are getting very excited about its potential. The Sauvignons from all these places are all fresh and delicious, and recently producers have begun to tweak their production methods to capture more of the varieties aromatic character.

Finally, it is only right that Bordeaux gets a mention. The quantity of tropical, dry Sauvignons produced here may have diminshed of late but the variety is still prised in certain corners of Bordeaux, most noteably Sauternes, for its contribution to the great sweet wines of the region. In the autumn mists the grapes shrivel under the influence of Botrytis and when finally picked they contain a rich, sweet juice that is a major constituent of the sweet, citrussy wines that have become the most famous desert wines in the world.

Ben Godfrey, Wine Buyer - Mr.Wheeler Wine



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