Sauvignon blanc is a brilliantly aromatic wine, originating in France. Now grown in cool to moderate climates around the world, sauvignon blanc can display a whole spectrum of flavors from passion fruit, to lemongrass, to jalapeño, to wet stone. The acidic, green grapes have a distinct flavor profile that is like no other white wine.
Sauvignon Blanc Flavor Profile & Characteristics
Typically dry, light to medium in body, with high acidity, sauvignon blanc is a refreshing, bright, and crisp white wine. It is a very terror-driven grape, reflecting small nuances in soil composition and weather. It is particularly aromatic with pronounced herbaceous aromas of green grass, asparagus, and green bell pepper along with floral aromas of orchard blossom. In cooler climates, the wine has racy acidity and displays more green fruit notes such as gooseberry, granny smith apple, and wet stone. In warmer climates, the grapes are full of juicy, tropical fruit notes, such as passion fruit, grapefruit, guava, and lime. Sauvignon blanc is most commonly matured in inert vessels, such as stainless steel, to preserve the fresh fruit flavors.
How to Drink It
Sauvignon blanc is best served chilled to enjoy all that zesty fruit acidity. Serving it somewhere between 50-55°F (10-12°C) is ideal. Any drinking vessel will do; however, a white wine glass with a narrow bowl will do a better job capturing the aromatics. In general, the bright, energetic nature of the grape is best enjoyed young. Over time, the aromatics dissipate and less desired vegetable notes can develop.
Sauvignon blanc's natural high acidity and bright characteristics make it a great food wine. It's grassy and herbal flavors pair well with light foods such as white fish like halibut, oysters, and anything with a lively herb sauce. Matching green with green works well with this grape, and many vegetables dishes, like grilled zucchini with lemon zest and chèvre or herby salads complement the wine well. This wine is good year round, but the refreshing acidity and flavors very much have a spring vibe, and pairing it with a lunch frittata of fresh peas, ricotta and asparagus is a perfect fit.
While widely grown in cool to moderate climates throughout the world, there are a few regions known to produce particularly high quality and expressive sauvignon blancs.
Loire Valley sauv blancs are famous for having notes of citrus paired with gassy characteristics. They pick up the minerality in the soils and often express wet stone and flint on the palate. In typical Old World fashion, you likely won't see the grape variety on the label, rather look for the appellation, Sancerre AOC, Pouilly-Fumé, and Touraine AOC. The grape is also grown in Bordeaux, where it typically has fresh aromas of green apple, white peach, lemongrass, and saline. Here, sauvginon blanc is more likely to be blended with sémillon and matured in oak where it develops more complex flavors of honeycomb and nuts in the bottle.
Marlborough, at the top of the South Island, is the most well-known growing region for sauvignon blanc in New Zealand. Here, grapes from different sites are often blended together to create a more complex wine. They can have a whole range of flavors such as lemon, passion fruit, green bell pepper, pea shoot, and asparagus. Often, Marlborough sauv blancs have more pronounced characteristics than those from the Loire Valley.
Sauvignon blanc is widely planted in parts of south and western Australia. The wines in the south are fresh and fruit forward versions of the grape, full of citrus and tropical fruit. Similar to Bordeaux, they are sometimes blended with sémillon. The wines from the western region typically have more concentrated herbaceous aromas and are sometimes matured in oak.
Chile, South Africa, and parts of the United States also produce distinct sauvignon blancs. In all of the countries, the grapes grow best in cooler areas where the high acid and classic herbaceous characteristics are preserved.
This popular wine, with its zesty profile, is truly unique. It's perfect for a summer picnic of herby lemon chicken salad or sipped on its own. Try picking up a few different bottles from various regions to discover how the terroir impacts the flavor characteristics of the grape.