It’s difficult to believe that sauvignon blanc was once a wine that was well-known in France — the Loire Valley and Bordeaux — but few places elsewhere. Robert Mondavi even gave it a more colorful name, fume blanc, to increase its popularity.
But today it trails only chardonnay in popularity as a wine-by-the-glass at American bars or by the bottle on restaurant menus. Part of this ubiquity is that sauvignon, like chardonnay, thrives in many places around the world.
Here are 13 — a winemaker’s case — from five different regions:
Robert Mondavi “To Kalon” Napa Valley fume blanc reserve 2012 ($40)
Quite a change from the old days with Mondavi fume blancs, as this one is more in the Marlborough style — tart, green fruity, and not terribly complex, although there are some mineral notes.
Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Napa Valley fume blanc 2013 ($20)
Quite nice for the price — creamy, juicy, welcoming flavors of green apples and gooseberries with little tugs of tannin.
Cliff Lede Napa Valley sauvignon blanc 2013 ($24)
Lots of intensity, but the wine seems to have a sugary juiciness, which to me is a bit disconcerting. Nice flavors, though, of lime and white peach. Perhaps a wine for aging?
Line 39 California sauvignon blanc 2013 ($11)
Full-bodied. Little bit of funkiness, somewhat like overripe grapefruit, and the wine could use a bit more crispness in the finish.
Waterstone Napa Valley sauvignon blanc 2013 ($18)
Vibrant quince fruitiness and moderately full-bodied. It’s long on the palate and quite refreshing.
Macari “Los Aguas” North Fork white wine 2013 ($27)
A blend with some sauvignon along with chardonnay and riesling, it has a green-fruit nose with a combo of kiwi and lime flavors, a rounder wine, full-bodied with a good finish.
Macari “Katherine’s Field” North Fork of Long Island sauvignon blanc 2013 ($23)
Lots of flavors of white grapes, lime and grass. Moderate body with good acidity, crisp but not cutting, and light tannins.
Nobilo Marlborough sauvignon blanc 2014 ($11)
Minerally, with juicy lemon-lime flavors.
Nobilo “Icon” Marlborough sauvignon blanc 2014 ($17)
Quite grassy but mellow toward the front with a sharp, citrusy finish.
Kim Crawford Marlborough sauvignon blanc 2014 ($15)
Typical Marlborough fruitiness — limes, ripe kiwi — but with some creaminess, dusty tannins and skin-like piquancy at the edges. Quite nice.
Pascal Jolivet Sancerre 2011 ($24)
Firm fruitiness with lime dominating, then a creamy yet crisp finish.
Pascal Jolivet Sancerre 2013 ($24)
A very nice wine that tastes somewhat more mature than the 2011. It has a medium body with tart apple, brioche, and creamy flavors.
Trivento “Decopas” Mendoza sauvignon blanc 2013 ($9)
Lots of nice tart fruit, more on the tropical fruit spectrum than straight citrus.
Ten great sauvignon blancs from around the world
Sancerre les Perrieres 2013 Andre Vatan
(£16.25, Yapp Brothers, www.yapp.co.uk)
Sancerre in the Upper Loire is home to the world’s most distinctive sauvignon blanc with its grassy, flinty styles. This has elderflower and cut grass aromas and a racy palate.
Pouilly Fume 2012 Domaine de la Loge
(£16.99, Raeburn Wines, Edinburgh)
Neighbour to Sancerre, Pouilly Fumé is lower lying with a mix of soil types. This example has a delicious creamy texture alongside its fabulous minerally streak. Domaine de la Loge is run by David Millet – who grows vines across 19 hectares near Soumard, St Andelain. He makes five different Pouilly Fumés.
Chateau Doisy Daene Sec 2012
(£17.50, The Wine Society, www.thewinesociety.com)
An unusual place to find top quality sauvignon blanc, Barsac is better known for its sweet wines. Barsac, south of the city of Bordeaux, has red sands and red clay over limestone which give wonderful texture to the wines. This beautifully made example hails from the Denis Dubourdieu stable, a leading producer with 135 hectares across various appellations.
MARLBOROUGH, NEW ZEALAND
Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc 2014
(£16-£20, The Wine Society Luvians WoodWinters Majestic Wine)
If you are looking for the pinnacle of achievement with sauvignon blanc anywhere in the world, you should head to the Greywacke label. Kevin Judd worked as Cloudy Bay’s senior winemaker for many years, before he established himself on his own. He has a fantastic knack of sourcing the best grapes and styling his sauvignon blancs into the juiciest, zestiest examples you will ever taste. STAR BUY
Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc 2014
(£13.50, Majestic Wine)
The Sutherland family make a range of enchanting wines from their base in the Wairau Valley in Marlborough. Ivan Sutherland tended Cloudy Bay’s vineyards for years, before setting up his own label, Dog Point. Son Matt now makes the wines. This is a very focused, pure example of Kiwi sauvignon blanc.
Mudhouse Woodshed Sauvignon Blanc 2014
(£15, Majestic Wine Tesco)
The story of Mudhouse is an intriguing one. The owner used to be a pea farmer in Essex. He sold up to sail around the world and ended up at Picton near Marlborough. He fell in love with the area, sold his boat, bought land and planted grapes. Several decades on, it is now a top ranking estate producing classic, pungent sauvignon blanc.
WAIHEKE, NEW ZEALAND
Gravestone Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon 2012
This wine gets its name from the mist and fog which sweeps across the vineyard, making it look like a graveyard in winter. Made by Scot Duncan MacTavish of Man o War vineyard on an island off Auckland harbour, he blends in 30 per cent oaked semillon to round out the palate: lovely freshness with lime, honey and honeysuckle undertones.
ELGIN, SOUTH AFRICA
Paul Cluver Sauvignon Blanc 2013
(£12, Marks & Spencer)
The old apple growing orchards of Elgin, on a high plateau east of Cape Town with ferricrete iron rich soils, are home to the most distinct and elegant sauvignon blanc in South Africa. Minerally, grippy, unoaked – a charming, approachable dry white.
LEYDA VALLEY, CHILE
Secano Paico Vineyard Block 3 Sauvignon Blanc 2013
(£9, Marks & Spencer)
Leyda Valley is the source of Chile’s sleekest and most interesting sauvignon blancs. Once dry farmland, a pipeline now pumps water here from the Maipo river. Viviana Navarrete makes this very appealing quaffable unoaked example.
Montes Limited Selection Sauvignon Blanc 2013
I am a great admirer of Aurelio Montes’ winery, which consistently produces well-made examples of its varietals. With lovely floral notes, this is a crisp, dry benchmark Chilean sauvignon blanc.
The Grape Diaries: Sauvignon Blanc
Prefer your whites on the drier side? Nice and fruity with a trademark crisp finish? Then you&rsquoll likely be familiar with Sauvignon Blanc, famed the world over for producing delightfully refreshing aromatic wines. Follow its journey from the old world to the new, with some key characteristics and pairing suggestions along the way.
Sauvignon Blanc, like so many of our most popular grapes, can trace its origins back to France. It is most likely to have been first planted in Bordeaux, where it then moved to its heartland in the Loire Valley.
While varying in style depending on climate and growing conditions, Sauvignon Blanc stands out for its high level of acidity and lots of fresh, zesty fruit flavours.
In the coolest regions, such as Northern France, the predominant flavours are grass, green apple and green pepper. Whereas in warmer areas, it has more ripe, tropical flavours like peach and passionfruit.
The Sauvignons of the Loire Valley, such as Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé, are among some of the most famous names in white wine. Here the cool climate and limestone or slate soils produce wines with grassy aromas, and a flinty or sometimes even smoky quality.
Although better known for their reds, Bordeaux has long been associated with Sauvignon Blanc and still produces some amazing examples. Here it is usually blended with Semillon to make some outstanding and complex wines. It also makes up a small, but important, part of the blend in the prestigious sweet wines of Sauternes.
As is the way with many other varieties, here the New World has taken a European grape and made it their own. New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is one of the most renowned and distinctive styles of wine around today.
Here the cool climate, particularly around the Marlborough region, is perfect for producing Sauvignon Blanc with its trademark fresh acidity, while long hours of sunshine ensure well ripened grapes that are bursting with zesty citrus and gooseberry flavours.
Sauvignon Blanc is at its best in a cooler climate and, surprising as it may be, Australia does in fact boast some cooler regions where the variety can thrive. Western Australia, particularly the Margaret River area, is the most famed for producing premium wines thanks to its Bordeaux-esque climate. Unsurprisingly, Bordeaux variety grapes tend to do best here, making it ideal for delicious Sauvignon-Semillon blends.
Although Australia is not renowned for its single varietal Sauvignons, cooler areas such as Adelaide Hills in South Australia or Tasmania do make some lovely aromatic wines, often with more tropical flavours than those of their Kiwi neighbours.
The north of Chile is suitably cool due to the influence of the Pacific Ocean, allowing it to produce some excellent Sauvignon Blancs. The limestone soils of the Limari and Elqui Valleys are particularly well suited, and make wines with notes of elderflower and grass that are similar in style to those from the Loire Valley.
Rest of the world
Other notable producers of Sauvignon Blanc include the cooler regions of South Africa, such as Elgin and Constantia, where wines often have a more tropical flavour with a trademark herbaceous quality to them.
In North America, California is the main region for Sauvignon production. It offers a softer, barrel-aged style, sometimes called Fumé Blanc, which was made famous by wine pioneer Robert Mondavi as he sought to improve the reputation of this grape. While popular at the time, nowadays many modern Californian winemakers favour a crisper, New Zealand style.
Sauvignon Blanc is a versatile pairing for an impressive variety of cuisines.
Crisp acidity: pair with goats cheese or sushi
A Loire Sauvignon Blanc is a perfect match for local goats cheese, where its crisp acidity works wonders to cut through the creaminess. This style also matches well with the delicate flavours and textures of sushi.
Aromatic: pair with Thai curry or Asian-style seafood
New Zealand Sauvignon certainly packs a punch when it comes to flavour, well-known for its instant floral aromas and citrus zing in your mouth. These characteristics make it the perfect companion for spicy, aromatic dishes such as Thai green curry and Asian-style seafood.
Oaked: pair with creamy chicken or veal dishes
The Bordeaux style of Sauvignon blends can be a trickier match, and the perfect food pairing depends on whether it is oaked or not. For oaked and Fumé Blanc styles, chicken or veal is a great match. This is especially true when accompanied by a creamy sauce, as these richer styles have the weight and complexity to stand up to the heartiness of the meal.
Unoaked: pair with oily fish or garlic prawns
The unoaked styles are often more citrusy in flavour, so pair well with fish, particularly oily fish such as sardines and mackerel. They also stand up well to stronger flavours like garlic prawns.
If you like this, then you&rsquoll love&hellip
If you love your Sauvignon, but want to broaden your horizons, try a deliciously crisp Picpoul de Pinet from the South of France. Like Sauvignon Blanc, it has bags of zesty citrus and tangy green apple flavours, plus a mouthwatering finish.
If you&rsquore looking for something that has a touch of riper fruit flavours and a little less acidity, a good choice would be a Spanish Verdejo. The best known examples come from the Rueda region and make a nice, easy-drinking wine for the summer months.
For something a little different, the Austrian grape Grüner Veltliner has a similar level of acidity and body, and a crisp green apple flavour. At times, it also has an intriguing hint of white pepper, so it&rsquos a great option if you fancy trying something new.
So now you know that there&rsquos more to Sauvignon Blanc than Marlborough, why not get acquainted with a glass or two from our vibrant selection?
Browse our selection of over 600 different Sauvignon Blancs from around the world.
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Wine of the week: Sauvignon blancs from around the world
In my opinion, there are few wine varieties of grapes in the wine kingdom that take on the characteristics of a particular location more than sauvignon blanc.
Regardless of its place of origin, not many white wines help to quench thirst or revive the palate quite like a sauvignon blanc. Originally of French origin, the grape has made its way across the globe, taking on a wide array of styles unique to every region where it is produced.
Whether it’s the grassy notes of New Zealand’s style, the tangy zip of Sancerre from the Loire Valley, Burgundy’s exceptional offering from the appellation of Saint-Bris, or the tropical fruit tones found in California’s version, sauvignon blanc displays unique traits from its country of origin.
When sauvignon blanc is grown in cooler climates, such as New Zealand, it tends to produce crisp wines with green grass, hay and lemon-lime characteristics. Grapes grown in warmer regions, such as California, offers rounder tropical fruit flavors, while its French cousins from the tiny Burgundian appellation of Saint-Bris and the more famous Sancerre region of the Loire Valley — the traditional gold standard of sauvignon blanc — tend to accent acidity and minerality.
While many sauvignon blancs are made without fermenting or aging the wine in oak barrels — in order to accent the crisp acidity — some winemakers use oak during the aging process to develop a touch of creaminess and toast to the finished product.
Between global competition and winemaking styles, consumers have a plethora of tasty choices and great values.
Here are a few exceptional wines to consider.
New Zealand has definitely become well-known for producing value-driven quality sauvignon blanc wines. Grown in cooler climates, the 2018 Matakana Sauvignon Blanc from the Marlborough region of New Zealand displays scents of gooseberry and grassy notes on the nose. Ripe flavors of passion fruit and pear exhibit good intensity upfront and throughout the crisp finish. All you need is an assortment of shellfish and an ice bucket. $10
This first vintage of the 2018 Samuel Charles Sauvignon Blanc comes from the High Valley AVA in Lake County, California. Located at nearly 2,000 feet elevation, this is one of the highest sauvignon blanc vineyard sites in the state. Grown on steeply sloped, well-drained hillside soils, the fruit is exposed to warm days and cool nights, promoting the development of vibrant acidity. The wine is fermented and aged in stainless steel tanks to preserve fresh fruit characteristics and partially aged on the lees for added richness on the palate. It features charming scents of white peaches, melon and nectarines in the bouquet. Bright flavors of melon, honeysuckle and passion fruit dominate on the front of the palate while grilled nectarine notes accent the crisp finish. Enjoy with your favorite rocking chair or hammock. $25
One of my absolute favorite sauvignon blanc wines comes from a tiny — and I mean really small — appellation located inside the Burgundy region of France, just a few miles southwest of the famed wine village of Chablis. Weighing in at just 250 acres of sauvignon blanc vines (I told you it was small), the AOC of Saint-Bris produces some of the best values in the Sauvignon Blanc universe. The 2017 Simonnet-Febvre Saint-Bris Sauvignon Blanc is proof. The nose is bursting with scents of grapefruit, mandarin orange and ripe peach. Flavors of summer stone fruit — think nectarine and peach — are highlighted by notes of pear and orange clove. The wonderfully complex finish is accented by abundant acidity and hints of salinity and spice. Best of all, this wine can be enjoyed young or saved for a future summer outing. $15
- ½ cup dry white wine (such as Sauvignon Blanc)
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- 2 teaspoons very finely minced shallots
- 4 ounces cold unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
- salt to taste
- 1 pinch cayenne pepper (Optional)
Place wine, lemon juice, cream, shallots, and cream in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium, and let simmer until liquid is reduced by about 75%, 4 to 5 minutes. Reduce heat to the lowest setting and whisk in about 2 cubes of butter. Keep butter moving until it melts. When melted, add a few more cubes, whisking continuously so butter emulsifies into the wine/lemon juice mixture.
Continue to add butter, a few cubes at a time until all of it has been incorporated and the sauce has a thick, luxurious texture, 4 to 6 minutes. Remove from heat. Taste for seasonings and add a pinch of salt and cayenne, if desired. Serve immediately.
Top 15 Sauvignon Blancs from around the world
Sauvignon Blanc is one of the world’s most widely-planted grapes, and (alongside Chardonnay) one which gives rise to extreme opinions. Many people associate it with one particular style, the super-ripe, super-pungent wines of New Zealand. But that style (and it can be very good indeed) is only one facet of this most versatile grape.
Sauvignon’s European base is the Loire valley, in particular Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé, where the long warm days and cool nights produce wines that are lean, fresh and aromatic – and ageworthy. In southwest France the Sauvignon is softened with Semillon, and producers like Chateau Smith-Haut-Lafitte and Domaine de Chevalier in Bordeaux produce some of the most sought-after white wines in the world.
New World Sauvignon Blanc, especially the cool-climate wines from Chile and even England, can be wonderfully refreshing and complex.
New Zealand is one New World country that has made Sauvignon its own. The signature style is often pungently green (some call it asparagus, others cats’ pee), but the world is calling for leaner, racier wines – which we've seen examples of in the IWSC 2020 awards.
South African Sauvignon Blanc can also be excellent. The country is warmer than New Zealand so the wines are riper and more generous, but the best have the racy acidity that is so important for structure and texture.
Wine Predator Gwendolyn Alley, member of the 2019 US Wine Tasting Team
MEMBER, 2019 US WINE TASTING TEAM
Graduate, VinItaly Wine Ambassador Course
After starting my Art Predator blog November 2007, I began Wine Predator and attended the First Wine Bloggers Conference in Sonoma in 2008, followed by the second in 2009.
In November 2009, I went to the European Wine Bloggers Conference then to the Alentejo Region of Portugal on a wine tour sponsored by Enoforum WInes.
In 2010, I won a scholarship to attend the Wine Bloggers Conference in Walla Walla as well as a pre-conference trip to learn more about Washington wine.
In 2011, I explored by VW van the wine regions of the Northwest: Idaho, Washington, Oregon and Northern California. I also spoke about wine and food pairing at the International Food Bloggers Conference in Santa Monica.
In 2012, I participated in the Wine Bloggers Conference in Portland where I gave an Ignite!Wine presentation.
Also in 2012, Sue Hill -- a childhood friend who manages Cantara's tasting room -- began working with me in menu development, as a chef, and as a scribe the focus of the blog began to shift to more food and wine pairings.
In 2013 I won a scholarship to attend the Wine Bloggers Conference in Penticton, Canada I also participated in a press trip to Lake Chelan, Washington.
In 2014, I attended WBC14 in Santa Barbara and the Wine Tourism Conference in Paso Robles, CA.
In 2015, I continued my wine education by attending numerous industry events in LA as well as participating in various online tasting events with wines from around the world.
In 2016, I presented at both the International Food Bloggers Conference in Sacramento and the Wine Bloggers Conference in Lodi (where I was the concluding speaker of the conference).
In 2017, I published over 100 posts, many with an emphasis on food and wine pairings. I attended the International Food Bloggers Conference in Sacramento and the Wine Bloggers Conference in Santa Rosa. Press trips took me to LA, Lodi, San Luis Obispo, Napa, Lake, El Dorado, and Mendocino counties.
In 2018, in addition to attending industry wine events in LA, I joined the LA Wine Writers group for luncheons and a week long press trip to Oregon. With help from Sue Hill, I published almost 100 articles.
In February 2019, I took the VinItaly Italian Wine Ambassador Course in LA.
In July 2019, Sue and I competed in the US Wine Tasting Championships. Our second place finish put us on the US Wine Tasting Team to compete in France in October 2019.
We publish, on average, two blog posts a week with most of them featuring food and wine pairings as well as tasting notes and information about the winery.
Areas of interest and expertise include biodynamic wine, food, travel, geography, and culture. I have undergraduate degrees in Literature/Creative Writing and Environmental Studies from UC Santa Cruz, and graduate degrees in Education, English, and Ecopsychology I teach writing at the college level. Sue has a degree in Liberal Studies and a Masters in School Administration she's an administrator and a teacher at an elementary school.
Who knows where we will prowl next? You can reach me by email: gwendolynalley AT yahoo DOT com.
Hawaii: Big Pau Hana
- 2 parts Big Wave Golden Ale
- 1.5 parts strawberry or berry vodka
- .5 part Chambord liqueur
- 2 parts cranberry juice
- 1 parts raspberry (blackberry or huckleberry will work as well) simple syrup
- 3 dashes of peach bitters (or any flavor) – can be replaced with a squeeze of lemon
Instructions: Lightly stir all ingredients in a tin and strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a floating lime wheel.
Karen Chen is always planning her next great escape and loves the beach more than anyone else you know. See her prove it on Instagram[email protected]