Better Know A Varietal – Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc has recently become a favorite white wine varietal. Part of that is boredom with yet another Chardonnay but part of it is the general high quality of inexpensive wines made from the grape.

Sauvignon Blanc probably originated in the Bordeaux region of France were it is most often blended with Semilion. Bordeaux’s based on this blend are most frequently light to medium bodied wines with some mineral notes and frankly not that interesting to me. There are exceptions but they tend to be pricey.

In France’s Louire Valley (which is another contender for where the grape originated) they make much better use of the grape, usually vinifying it alone to make dry, semi dry and sweet wines as well as sparkling wines. Flavors typically have some citrus notes but can also include tropical fruits, melon and honey. Many of the dry ones have nice mineral finishes.

I credit New Zealand with the grapes current popularity. Starting in the 1980’s New Zealand started exporting consistently good, reasonably priced Sauvignon Blanc’s with tropical fruit flavors and nice zesty refreshing qualities. At the time the trend in white wines had been to ever heavier and oakier wines. New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc may not have seemed “serious” in comparison but they sure tasted good.

Sauvignon Blanc is now made in just about every country that produce wines and a remarkably high portion of them are pretty good. Warmer climates such as California and South Africa tend to make more full bodied wines that can loose some of the refreshing character that I like but they are usually well made wines.

There is one partial exception to my feeling that Sauvignon Blanc is a safe bet. For many years many vineyards in Chile said they had Sauvignon Blanc planted when they had Semilion. Semilion makes for less characterful wines that can be prone to oxidation. There are many fine Sauvignon Blanc’s from Chile but it helps to know the producer.


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