The dog days of summer are upon us, and that means we want to quench our thirsts with wines that have bright enough acidity to make our mouths water. We also want wines that pair with light meats, non-fatty fish, and salads that feature the summer’s bounty of fresh vegetables from our gardens or the local farmer’s market. Sauvignon Blanc fits the bill, and that is why we love it!
Sauvignon Blanc originated in the Bordeaux and Loire Valley in France. The name sauvignon comes from the French word sauvage meaning wild and from blanc meaning white. The grape is a descendant of the grape Savagnin, and one of the parents of Cabernet Sauvignon.
Wines made from Sauvignon Blanc are noted for their green herbaceous flavors, often paired with a touch of minerality. The flavor profiles exhibited by the grape will depend on whether the grape is grown in a cool or warm climate, and run the spectrum from citrus or orchard fruit, to full-on tropical fruit.
Cool-climate Sauvignon Blanc, like those from France, Chile and New Zealand, will have high acidity along with green flavors like grass and green pepper, along with passion fruit and elderflower. A notable characteristic of cool-climate Sauvignon Blanc from France includes a hint of minerality, smoke, or even gun flint. Warm-climate Sauvignon Blanc, like those from Australia and California, will have more super ripe grapefruit, along with other bold tropical fruit flavors and grassiness.
White wines from France labelled with locations like Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé will always be 100 percent Sauvignon, as dictated by the region’s appellation laws. Wines labelled Fumé Blanc from California bear this name, invented by Robert Mondavi in 1960s, to get past the fact that consumers thought Sauvignon Blanc was an uninteresting wine. Mondavi attempted to create interesting wines made from Sauvignon Blanc, bypassing the varietal name. He was known for aging the wines in oak, though not all wines labelled Fumé Blanc are oak-aged.
France has the highest acreage of Sauvignon Blanc, at 71,000 acres, followed by Italy, New Zealand, the United States, Chile, and Spain. White Bordeaux wines are usually made from Sauvignon Blanc, and which, by law, can be blended with any combination of the grape, along with Semillon, Muscadelle, and Ugni Blanc.
One of the finest and most famous sweet wines in the world, Sauternes, is usually made from Sauvignon Blanc, along with Semillon. Sauvignon Blanc is a thin-skinned grape, which makes it susceptible to Botrytris, which is a fungus that dehydrates the grapes, thereby concentrating the sugars. Areas of Bordeaux have the perfect climate for this to occur, and Sauternes are wines that have high acid, super luscious sweetness and richness, with flavors like honeysuckle and orange marmalade.
Sauvignon Blanc was one of the first wines to be bottled in commercial quantities in New Zealand with a screwcap. The wine is meant to be drunk within a year or two of bottling, so the screwcap is an appropriate and easy closure for the wine, since it isn’t meant for long term aging.
Sauvignon Blanc wines are best when chilled to about 45 degrees. Food pairings for wines include chicken, pork and turke—especially if served with pesto or salsa verde. When it comes to pairing for these wines, think green. The wines pair beautifully with asparagus, sautéed green vegetables, and any dish that has fresh herbs like basil or parsley. Oysters and Sauvignon Blanc make a great pairing too. Sauvignon Blanc’s ability to pair with things light and fresh is yet just another reason why we love Sauvignon Blanc!