Sauvignon Blanc is a consumer favourite and one of the most fashionable white varieties in the world today. Not unsurprisingly it is widely planted around the world. Its origins are believed to be the Loire Valley and Bordeaux in France and may have got its name from the combination of French words sauvage – meaning wild and blanc meaning white. Interestingly it is also the “mother” of Cabernet Sauvignon from a believed crossing with the black Cabernet Franc grape.
The grape is today most famously associated with two Loire Valley appellations – Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé along with the Marlborough region at the northern end of the South Island of New Zealand. But the grape is widely grown, and other star areas include South Africa (Walker Bay and Elgin) and Chile (Casablanca and Leyda Valleys). These styles are predominantly made in a fresh, fruity and aromatic manner with no us of oak at all.
Maybe the surprise is Sauvignon’s long association with Bordeaux. Today, many of this region’s dry whites are very much Sauvignon based (sometimes 100%) and in the star region of Pessac-Léognan you find one of the rare examples of Sauvignon which is barrel fermented and aged. These are some of the richest and most refined wines and top examples can challenge the best of white Burgundy in quality, if different in style.
The typical smells and flavours of Sauvignon include green and citric fruits such as gooseberry, lime and grapefruit, but also herbal and vegetal notes of (green) bell pepper and asparagus. In warmer New World areas attractive notes of elderflower and passion fruit emerge.
Sauvignon works well with many seafood dishes (including more robust flavours such as mackerel and smoked salmon) and lighter meats. It is a good partner to salads, crudités and mixed vegetable dishes. It also does a star turn with sushi. Maybe the real surprise is also how well it works with goat’s cheese (chèvre)!
The first Friday in May is celebrated as “International Sauvignon Blanc Day”