History of Sauvignon Blanc

Perhaps no other grape is as successfully well-travelled as the Sauvignon Blanc. It let loose its moorings from old world France and found a home in the soil of many emerging vineyards in the New World.

Along its journey, it has obtained the reputation of being a shapeshifter of sorts, taking on a new flavour depending on the climate and soil of the region in which it is grown. It is among the world’s most popular white wines, claiming almost ten per cent of the Australian white wine market and has placed Oceania wine producers on the world map in general.

The Sauvignon Blanc has done a lot of work to emerge from its origins in fields for France’s 17th century Bordeaux region, where it was known simply as wild white (“sauvage blanc”), to become one of the most successfully cultivated grapes on the planet.

Many experts believe that it can trace its parentage to the humble, yet ancient Savagnin in France’s Jura region. The Savagnin vine, like the Sauvignon Blanc, produces green berries, but perhaps its unstable genome has allowed the Sauvignon Blanc to surpass it in popularity.

While other grapes may need to be blended with their cousins to create interesting and layered flavours, the green-skinned Sauvignon Blanc can stand on its own two feet – so to speak – in a bottle alone.

Sauvignon Blanc is heretical in the sense that it bucks one of the most wildly held conventions of wine; the older the wine, the better the wine. Over the centuries it was found to not have benefited from ageing like most of its brethren and drinkers were encouraged to consume a bottle within a year.

Sauvignon Blanc also holds the distinction of being one of the first two wines bottled and sold with a twist cap instead of a cork. Many experts credit its relatively recent rise in popularity to the fact that many drinkers are seeking alternatives to Chardonnay, which is currently the world’s most popular white wine.

Sauvignon Blanc

What Food Does Sauvignon Blanc Suit?

When it reaches the dinner table, Sauvignon Blanc is best when chilled slightly. It is a delightful complement to cold seafood like prawns, oysters and mussels. In fact, it goes so well with seafood that it is one of the few western wines that is a good pairing with sushi. It is not uncommon for diners to choose to abandon the traditional sake for a chilly glass of Sauvignon Blanc.

Its acidic taste also creates an amazing partnership with fresh, crispy salad vegetables. It also marries well with rich, fatty cheeses and grilled chicken and pork

What Does Sauvignon Blanc Taste Like?

Taste-wise, the Sauvignon Blanc is hard to pin down. The wine produced by the grape has a wide flavour profile. It can range from light to medium-bodied and has a tendency to be faintly acidic and dry. Drinkers should not be surprised however if they also find that another glass originating from a bottle from a different region is sweet and fruity.

The taste of a Sauvignon Blanc tends to be heavily influenced by the climate and soil of the region it is cultivated in. Even the temperature at the time of fermentation can influence the flavour of a Sauvignon Blanc. As a result, it is not uncommon for tasters to report herbal and grass-like notes along with hints of sweet stone fruit and citrus.

Some claim the sandier the soil, the more likely you are to produce a Sauvignon Blanc that tastes like greenery. On the other hand, if the Sauvignon Blanc finds its roots in a totally different kind of soil, it can boast more showy flavours like peach and loganberry.

Sauvignon Blanc in Australia

Sauvignon Blanc is currently Australia’s best-selling white wine, which may be the reason Australian wine growers have set aside more than 135,000 hectares of land to cultivate the grape.

Each year approximately 107,400 tons of the grape is crushed and exported to the tune of 26,798,000 litres, accounting for about 9 per cent of the total Australian export of white wine.

Production of the Australian Sauvignon Blanc can vary. Here, winemakers choose to mainly cold-ferment the grape in stainless steel with some producers resorting to using oak to add a layer of complexity to the flavour.

Where is Sauvignon Blanc Grown?

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The Sauvignon Blanc has culled itself a place in all wine-producing regions of the world. It is still an important grape in France with arguably the best version of the wine coming from the Loire Region. Other famous European wine-producing countries like Italy and Spain have also laid claim to this traveller from South West of France.

Ever since the first cuttings of the vine was introduced to the West Coast of the United States in the 1880s, the Sauvignon Blanc has become indispensable for winemakers in California and Washington state. Further South in Chile it is also a revered staple of wine producers.

In Africa, it can be found as far north as Morocco all the way down to South Africa. To the delight of New Zealand exporters, there has been a clamouring from the well-heeled drinking public for the grapes that originate from the sandy soils of the Marlborough Region. Not bad for a grape that was only introduced to the island nation in the 1970s.

In Australia, the most popular Sauvignon Blanc comes from the hills of the South Australia Region followed closely by Western Australia’s Margaret River and the Goulburn and King Valles of Victoria.

Some consider the Sauvignon Blanc an excellent introductory glass for those who are interested in dipping a toe into the world of white wine. One can move from bottle to bottle, region to region and exercise the palate using the same grape. Because it tends to be foundational to white wine blends, one can then take a step into the deep as it were and experience and deeply appreciate more whites while having the versatility and complexity of the taste of the Sauvignon Blanc as a launching pad.