Guide to Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon blanc, one of the most widely grown grape varietals, is prized the world over for producing white wines that are highly refreshing in their character and strong in flavours of tropical fruits and herbal zest.

Being a typically light-bodied style of wine, bottles of sauvignon blanc will almost always present as noticeably dry in their taste, with high amounts of acidity, and it is often the case that you can pick one just from its smell.

An ancient grape varietal, it is now planted all over the world in many of the top wine-producing regions of the world, where it is used to produce wines with slightly different flavour profiles.

To gain a quick understanding of how these wines usually taste and how they can be matched with food, see below.

Sauvignon Blanc Quick Guide

Why is it Called Sauvignon Blanc?

As mentioned previously, sauvignon blanc grapes have existed for a very long period of time, over 500 years in fact, meaning they possess a long and noble history.

The grape itself came to be due to the combination of an extremely rare native French grape varietal called savagnin with another currently unknown species.

Parenting aside, this conception took place in the Loire Valley region in France, which is located across the central part of that country.

As you may note, the name of the grape varietal itself is actually two separate words, “sauvignon” and “blanc”, which are both French in origin.

“Sauvignon” is derived from the French word “sauvage”, meaning “wild”, a direct nod towards the distinctly wild nature of the grapevine itself, whilst “blanc” is the French word for “white”, which indicates the style of wine produced.

Whilst the grapes' spiritual home lies in France, it has been readily adopted by many other wine-producing nations, particularly New Zealand, where some of the most popular examples originate.

To learn more about the history and origins of this grape varietal, consider this helpful article.

How do Sauvignon Blanc Wines Taste?

Sauvignon Blanc Flavour Wheel

Sauvignon blanc wines are easily distinguishable due to their prominent aromas of passionfruit, guava, grapefruit, citrus, and zesty herbs, which can vary in their strengths depending upon the grapes’ geographical point of origin.

When it is grown in cooler climates, such as in New Zealand, it typically possesses the strongest amount of acidity, with prominent flavours of fresh cut grass, green pepper, and gooseberry shining through alongside softer notes of passionfruit, grapefruit, and even subtle peach.

In more moderate to warm climates however, the acidity of the wine is slightly more subdued, with the tropical fruit flavours of passionfruit, guava, grapefruit, and gooseberry being characteristically more dominant in their nature.

In both instances, however, it is usually the case that sauvignon blanc wines are left unaged and made to be drunk fresh, although some producers do age and/or ferment their wines in oak barrels for some time, imparting flavours of butter, lemon curd, and subtle vanilla.

Sauvignon Blanc in France

As sauvignon blanc grapes were first grown in France, it makes sense to begin any wine-tasting journey there when exploring the grape varietal.

It also helps that the country holds the title as being the biggest cultivator of the grape varietal globally, even though other nations, particularly New Zealand, might perhaps be the most popular producer amongst consumers.

Originating in the Loire Valley region, which is quite a large area spread across much of the central part of the country, sauvignon blanc grapes are now found throughout many other prominent French wine-producing regions, including the Bordeaux and the Languedoc regions.

That being said, when looking at those examples coming out of France, it is most important to start with those bottles being produced in the Loire Valley region.

For more on the sauvignon blanc wines from elsewhere in France, read this insightful article.

Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc

Whilst sauvignon blanc grapes can be found throughout almost the entirety of the expansive Loire Valley wine-producing region, it is in the areas of the central Loire Valley where around 50% of all of the region's sauvignon blanc grapes are grown.

Loire Valley Wine Region Map

Before continuing further, it is important to understand that when looking into the Loire Valley region, and many other French and international wine-producing regions for that matter, grapes that are grown in a particular subregion of a greater region are often labelled under their legally protected local appellation, or name.

With that being said, the two subregions that are most important in the production of sauvignon blanc wines in the Loire Valley region are the Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé subregions or appellations, which produce and label their wines under these names.

In both of these cool climate areas, the grapes produce wines with racy levels of acidity and a distinct layer of flinty minerality, that is hard to find elsewhere, alongside fruit flavours of lime, grapefruit, and honeydew melon.

Some of the expressions coming out of these two areas number amongst some of the most expensive bottles of white wine in the world so for those seeking premium examples of sauvignon blanc, the Loire Valley offers you perhaps the greatest variety.

This article here offers you additional insight into the flavour differences between sauvignon blanc produced in France's Loire Valley region and others, particularly the Marlborough region in New Zealand.

Sauvignon Blanc in New Zealand

Being a cool climate country, New Zealand is a natural fit for producing exceptional examples of refreshingly crisp, dry, and herbaceous expressions of sauvignon blanc wine.

Although the country has quite a long history in producing wine that dates back to the 19th century, it wasn’t until the 1980s that the New Zealand wine industry really took off.

The success of brands such as Cloudy Bay effectively put the country on the map for sauvignon blanc production.

This brand, alongside others, helped take the local wine industry to the point where even though it might not be the world's largest producer of the grape varietal, it is now arguably its most popular, with bottles of New Zealand sauvignon blanc being exported on a massive scale.

The country possesses quite a number of important wine-producing regions, including the Hawkes Bay and Central Otago regions but it is in the Marlborough region where some of the most notable examples of New Zealand sauvignon blanc originate.

To explore more about the history of sauvignon blanc production in New Zealand, including some of the regions outside of the Marlborough region, read this article, which offers further insights.

Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc

The Marlborough region, which is located on the northernmost tip of New Zealand's South Island, is by far the most widely recognised wine-producing region from that country.

Marlborough Wine Region Map

Most of the large brands from New Zealand have wineries there and it is practically impossible to not be able to find at least one bottle of Marlborough sauvignon blanc at any bar, restaurant, or bottle shop throughout major parts of the world.

Due to the area's cooler climate, the sauvignon blanc wines originating there are distinguished by their incredibly pronounced levels of acidity and strong herbaceous and fruit flavour characters.

Specific flavours often include passionfruit, gooseberry, green pepper, and freshly cut grass, with most bottles being light in their body.

To learn more about the local wine industry in the Marlborough region and in wider New Zealand, be sure to check out this site, which provides additional insights.

Sauvignon Blanc in Australia

The climate conditions in Australia, largely moderate to warm, tends to mean that the often sought after levels of fresh zingy acidity and flavours of herb and bell pepper do not readily occur in many of the bottles of sauvignon blanc produced there.

That being said, the grape varietal has found a natural home amongst many of the cooler climate regions of Australia, including in the Adelaide Hills, many of the regions located in Tasmania, and even in the Margaret River region, where it is often blended alongside sémillon to create more textured styles of wine.

The two best places to start when looking into Australian sauvignon blanc are the Adelaide Hills region and Tasmania as it is in these two areas where the sauvignon blanc grapes can achieve the desired levels of acidity and fresh flavours of tropical fruits and herbs.

Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc

It is in the Adelaide Hills region, which is located just to the east of the major South Australian city of Adelaide, where many of the best bottles of cool climate Australian pinot noir, tempranillo, chardonnay, and sauvignon blanc wines originate.

Adelaide Hills Wine Region Map

There are plenty of producers in the region who make examples of sauvignon blanc that are renowned for their dry and refreshingly acidic character, with flavours of freshly cut grass, zesty herbs, and gooseberry taking centre stage.

When looking to discover some of the best bottles from the region, be sure to visit this site, which details some of the best to purchase.

Tasmanian Sauvignon Blanc

Tasmania, which is equally as famous for its whisky distilleries as it is for its local wine industry, is situated the furthest south of any Australian state or Territory, making the local winemakers there ideally placed to make excellent bottles of cool climate sauvignon blanc.

Tasmania Wine Region Map

Similar to the Marlborough region in New Zealand and other Australian cool climate regions, such as the Adelaide Hills, the examples produced in Tasmania are renowned for their highly acidic character and light-body, with herbal and green bell pepper flavours operating in abundance alongside fruity notes of gooseberry, passionfruit, and subtle peach.

If you’re looking to visit the region, or just simply want to learn more about some of the major producers, be sure to visit this site, which lists some of the top performers.

Pairing Food with Sauvignon Blanc

When seeking to pair sauvignon blanc with food it pays to consider from which part of the world the particular bottle in question originated, as this will tell you a great deal about the expected flavour profile, in turn influencing the optimal food pairing options.

Pairing Food with Sauvignon Blanc

Those bottles coming from cooler climate areas, in particular New Zealand, match best with dishes that possess plenty of herbal zest or strong citrus characteristics.

Common examples include leafy salads with plenty of herbal dressing and white meat or fish, standalone fish dishes that are garnished in layers of herbs and citrus, and finally, goats cheese.

Those coming from slightly more moderate to warm climates, such as the Napa Valley or Margaret River regions, however, can be best paired alongside slightly more textured seafood dishes, weightier servings of chicken or poultry, and finally, lobster or crab.

There's a bottle of sauvignon blanc out there for everyone. Here are some of the brands and bottles that we recommend you look out for the next time you're browsing online or in-store.

Noble Fellows 2020 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc Tasting Notes
Peachy in its style, this white wine is ideal for those after a crisp wine that is refreshingly acidic & yet still smooth.

Noble Fellows

2020 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc
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Lobster Reef 2019 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc Tasting Notes
A softer, peachier, & less acidic style of white, this wine is a great value intro to sauvignon blanc that isn't too dry.

Lobster Reef

2019 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc
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