The first smells of lawn mowing, green leaves and flower buds trigger my love for sauvignon blanc.
Sauvignon blanc’s origin is western France. It is an acidic white varietal that displays herbaceous, grassy and citrus aromas. It pairs well with oysters, shellfish, seafood, green vegetables, tomatoes, cured meats and goat cheese. Sauvignon rarely takes well to oak and is generally meant to be consumed young.
The two major sauvignon blanc communes of the Loire Valley in northwest France are Sancerre and Pouilly Fume. Sancerre is a grassy and steely style that became fashionable as a Central Park picnic wine in the 80’s. Pouilly Fume is a style that is a hint richer and is sometimes aged shortly in neutral oak for a fuller bodied wine.
In Bordeaux, France, sauvignon blanc is often blended with a white varietal called semillon which gives it a round finish. In the commune of Graves it has a good balance of texture, citrus and minerality. In some of the northerly communes it can actually age for a decade or more. Sauvignon blanc is also a blending grape in the famous dessert wine Sauternes.
In the new world these traditional styles are often mimicked. California’s style is powerful and citrusy, often displaying qualities of lemon and grapefruit. Robert Mondavi coined the term Fume Blanc in reference to a California sauvignon blanc made in a style of Pouilly Fume.
Sauvignon blanc was first planted in New Zealand in the late 70’s in Marlborough – the north part of the south island. To confuse things further, Martinborough, the south part of the north island, followed suit, and has also become famous for sauvignon.
The New Zealand style pushes the envelope of acidity, and hence, the term racing acidity. New Zealand sauvignon blanc is often an incredible value. They have distinctively green and steely notes, with a nose of passion fruit and kiwi.
In recent years, sauvignon blanc has made its way to Chile where it is mildly acidic compared to its southern hemisphere cousins. It has also flourished in the Stellenbosch region of South Africa.
In the Old World, some lesser known growing regions include Collio in northern Italy and the Styria region of Austria.