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Sauvignon blanc is one of the most recognized and beloved white wine grapes in the world. Known for its high acidity and citrus-driven flavors, this widely planted variety is the backbone of a plethora of zesty thirst-quenching wines produced around the globe. However, knowing its subtle intricacies, particularly around where it’s grown, how it’s vinified and what to expect from the final wines it produces, is essential.
What Is Sauvignon Blanc?
Sauvignon blanc is a green-skinned grape variety native to France. The grape likely gets its name from the French words for wild (sauvage) and white (blanc). Sauvignon blanc goes by various names, including blanc fumé, muskat-silvaner and sauvignon jaune. It’s one of the most widely planted grape varieties in the world.
Where Does Sauvignon Blanc Come From?
Although sauvignon blanc is native to France’s Bordeaux/southwest regions, the grape is now commonly found in Australia, Chile, New Zealand, South Africa, the United States (especially California) and beyond.
How Is Sauvignon Blanc Made?
Like all grapes, sauvignon blanc’s final flavor profiles depend on where it's grown and how it’s vinified. The grape is generally produced as a single-varietal wine, although in certain regions (particularly in Bordeaux) it’s often blended with sémillon. In order to preserve freshness and natural acidity, most varietal sauvignon blanc wines are aged in stainless steel, though sur-lie aging, in which wines are aged on the lees, is frequently implemented, which adds texture and weight to the final wines. Although they are generally consumed young, well-made expressions have long-term aging potential.
What Does Sauvignon Blanc Taste Like?
Depending on where it’s grown, sauvignon blanc can take on many different flavor profiles. In cooler climates, the wines take on more “green” flavors, such as green bell pepper, grass and citrus fruit. In warmer climates, the fruit becomes much more ripe, which translates to more stone fruit and tropical fruit notes. In the Loire Valley, sauvignon blanc takes on very flinty and stony flavors due to the unique silex soils in which it’s cultivated.
Which Foods Should I Pair with Sauvignon Blanc?
Because of its high levels of natural acidity, sauvignon blanc pairs well with a variety of foods, including sushi and other raw-bar favorites. Its green undertones render it a match made in heaven with “hard to pair” dishes, including asparagus, green salads and other crisp veggies. Sauvignon blanc also pairs well with a handful of soft cheeses, particularly fresh goat’s cheese.
These are six bottles to try.
Domaine Philippe Tessier Cheverny Blanc
Tessier wines have become sweethearts of the natural-wine world, and it's no surprise why. These tense laserlike wines are known for their brisk acidity and well-structured flavor profiles. Tessier currently makes two cheverny blanc wines, and this one comes from younger vines and is made from 80% sauvignon blanc, 15% chardonnay and 5% orbois. Notes of apple blossom, lemon rind, peach skin and yeast lead to a saline-tinged finish.
Domaine Vacheron Sancerre Blanc
In the world of sauvignon blanc production, Sancerre reigns king. Domaine Vacheron’s vineyards are located in the eastern part of the appellation, where flinty soils are smattered with bits of clay and limestone. Its entry-level Sancerre is produced from hand-harvested organic and biodynamically farmed fruit and fermented with native yeasts prior to four months of aging in tank. Expect classic flavors of green apple, gooseberry, juicy grapefruit, wet stones and flint.
Elizabeth Spencer (Special Cuvée)
Crafted in the heart of Mendocino County, this thirst-quenching white wine comes from 37-year-old vines that have been farmed organically for the past 15 years. The wine’s light-to-medium body jumps with flavors of stone fruit, grapefruit rind and minerals, which lead to a crisp citrus-driven finish. Sur-lie aging adds texture and complexity to the wine’s structured mouth feel.
François Chidaine Sauvignon Touraine
Located in Montlouis-sur-Loire, Francois Chidaine is a second-generation family-owned winery known for its affordable and accessible wines produced from biodynamically farmed fruit. Grapes for this delicious Touraine sauvignon blanc are grown in flinty clay-limestone soils and are fermented with native yeasts in stainless steel prior to sur-lie aging. Expect juicy flavors of citrus, tart apple, crushed rocks and white flowers on this wine’s vibrant, lively palate.
Produced by winemaking legend Dan Petroski, this fruit-driven and juicy sauvignon blanc is hands-down one of the best expressions of the grape coming out of California today. Inspired by the great sauvignon blancs of northern Italy, this refreshing expression from Napa shows flavors of green apple, lemon verbena and white pepper. It’s aged for six months in a combination of stainless steel (75%) and neutral French oak (25%).
Although New Zealand has become known for grassy uniform-flavored sauvignon blancs, this high-quality expression promises to surprise you. The family-owned estate produces this tasty wine from night-harvested fruit in stainless steel, then ages the wine for five months on the lees to add a layer of creaminess to its crisp and zesty palate. Flavors of guava, lime blossom and acacia lead to a lasting finish.