This popular, crisp white wine is known for its ‘green’ herbal flavors and bright acidity. The grape originates in the Loire Valley of France. The first written account of the grape was by writer Francois Rabelais in 1534. You may see Sauvignon Blanc used for a sparkling, a light-bodied white wine, or a rich, sweet dessert wine.
The name is likely derived from the French word sauvage, which means wild because the vines are reminiscent of wild grape vines. The grapes grow well in all different climates and soils and can be found all over the world. The grape, along with Cabernet France, are the parents of Cabernet Sauvignon. The ‘green’ aromatics of Sauvignon Blanc come from the compounds called Methoxypyrazines that are natural in the grape. Flavors are often described as gooseberry, honeydew melon, grapefruit, white peach, passion fruit, lime zest, flint, and smoke. A real tasting note for Sauvignon Blanc is ‘cat pee!’ This unique chemical compound, 4MMP, is distinct in this particular grape.
The grape originates in France’s Loire Valley. Here, Sauvignon Blanc wines tend to be mineral-driven with a slightly smoky nose. About a quarter of the Sauvignon Blanc in the world is in France. Nearly half are divided in New Zealand, Chile, South Africa, and Moldova. The remaining quarter of the vines are in the U.S., Australia, and the rest of Europe.
Over 50% of the wine produced in the central Loire Valley comes from five notable regions, each with a distinct difference. Reuilly wines are fruity and fresh with additional floral notes. Quincy has floral notes with citrus, pepper, and tree fruits. Menetou-Salon wines have musky floral notes and bright fruit with a rounded mouthfeel. Sancerre wines are vibrant and lively on the palate with intense minerality and tart citrus notes. Pouilly-Fume has a similar weight but feels richer than Sancerre and expect a gunflint aroma with yellow flowers.
In the cooler climate of Bordeaux, Sauvignon Blanc grows in Pessac-Leognan and Graves. In these regions, the grape is blended with Semillon and sometimes Muscadelle. The wines can tend to have a bit of weight on the palate because of lees contact and even barrel aging. Expect a range from dry and rich to a lush, intense dessert wine. If you ever have a chance, enjoy a Chateau Haut-Brion Blanc, which is a top-tier white Bordeaux that exceeds $1,000 a bottle!
Looking to newer regions of the world, the first Sauvignon Blanc was planted in New Zealand in 1975 and has increased steadily each decade since. Marlborough is the region most noted for the variety, and these wines have sharp acidity, often with a gram or two of residual sugar. These wines have distinct aromas of bell pepper, gooseberry, and citrus.
It was discovered in the 1980s that most of the Sauvignon Blanc growing in Chile was actually Sauvignon Vert, mistakenly brought over from Bordeaux. And in the well-known Napa Valley of California, Sauvignon Blanc is the most planted white wine. The styles can be tart and crisp or may include a blend of Semillon for a rounder mouthfeel.
Foods that pair well with Sauvignon Blanc are lighter dishes with herb-driven sauces. Think roast chicken with herbs de Provence or a light fish with rosemary and thyme. Tangy cheeses like goat cheese, feta, or chevre also pair well. Fatty avocado and egg dishes cut the acidity of the wine and make for a delicious brunch or lunch. And herb-driven Thai or Vietnamese cuisine can bring out the herbal qualities of these wines.
Take note: the first Friday of May is International Sauvignon Blanc Day, so open a bottle no matter where you are that day! You can see all the National and International Wine Days on our list.
Here are some fantastic Texas Sauvignon Blanc to try:
- Reddy Vineyards 2022 Petals & Clay $25 – reddyvineyards.com
- Messina Hof Winery 2022 Sauvignon Blanc $19 – messinahof.com
- Arrowhead Creek Vineyards 2022 Sauvignon Blanc $44 – arrowheadcreekvineyard.com
- Lone Star Wine Cellars 2017 Monte Stella Sauvignon Blanc $33 – lonestarwinecellars.com
- Westcave Cellars Winery 2021 Sauvignon Blanc $28 – westcavecellars.com