Sauvignon Blanc is a green-skinned grape variety that originated from southwestern France in the Loire Valley and Bordeaux regions. The grape gets its name from the French word sauvage (Sah-VAHJG) that means “wild,” referring to its ability to produce excessive foliage. At some point in the 18th century, through natural cross pollination, the Sauvignon Blanc grape crossed with Cabernet Franc to parent the Cabernet Sauvignon varietal in Bordeaux, France.
Most wines made from Sauvignon Blanc can be broadly classified into two distinct styles: the Loire Valley style and the Bordeaux style. This categorization is largely based on stylistic considerations of tradition, culture, or simply the preference of the winemaker. The “Loire” styles are less manipulated, showcasing a more transparent sense of the grape and location. On the other hand, the “Bordeaux” style offers some greater influence of vinification technique whether it’s a blend of a secondary grape varietal, or a use of barrel fermentation and/or barrel aging, incorporation of lees aging, or converting a portion of the wine’s malic acid to lactic acid.
Sauvignon Blanc is a fairly to highly aromatic grape varietal that provides nuances of garden (grassy, herbs, and asparagus), citrus fruits (lemon, grapefruit, gooseberry, and lime), and tropical fruits (guava, cantaloupe, and honeydew melon). The aroma/flavor profile can vary depending upon the climate and vineyard practices. Less common in modern-day, Sauvignon Blanc can contain an aggressive “cat-pee like” odor when the grapes lack sun exposure or are harvested early. More appropriate clone selections and viticultural practices that expose the grapes to greater sunlight now produce wines that are more ripe and citrus to melon-like in aroma and flavors.
Sauvignon Blanc is now planted in many wine regions of the world, producing a dry, youthful and refreshing white wine with a light to medium body and ample acidity. The alcohol content is moderate and generally hovers near 12–13.5 percent. Most Sauvignon Blancs are intended to be consumed in approximately one to three years from harvest date. The rarer, sweetened versions of Sauvignon Blanc are famously produced in Sauternes (sow-TEHRNS), an appellation in the Bordeaux region of France. These wines are always blended in varying amounts with the Semillon varietal. The wine is named after its appellation—arguably the world’s most famous “Rot” wine where this particular location is very susceptible to “noble rot” (or the Latin term Botrytis cinerea). This desirable mold works to dramatically concentrate a grape’s characteristics while rendering a highly aromatic dessert wine with a viscous, rich mouthfeel.
Sauvignon Blanc is grown throughout the world. The varietal is most well known in particular areas in France (Loire Valley and Bordeaux), Italy (Friuli and Venezia), New Zealand (Marlborough and Martinborough), California (Sonoma County), and Chile (Casablanca).