What is Sauvignon Blanc?
In the mid-1980s Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand, changed how the wine world viewed this varietal. And we shall ever be thankful.
Sauvignon Blanc is pronounced so-vin-yon-blonk. But in many parts of the world it is colloquially known as Sav Blanc, Savvy or just Sav.
The varietal is indigenous to Bordeaux, a region that produces some of the finest examples. The famous sub-regions of Pouilly-Fumé and Sancerre were established as recently as the 1930s and are synonymous with Sauvignon Blanc white wine.
The wine that changed the world
It was Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough in New Zealand’s South Island that really changed international opinion about this varietal. In the 1980s, Cloudy Bay produced a Sauvignon Blanc that took the world by storm. Suddenly, Sauvignon Blanc was more accessible, bursting with tropical fruit, supported by crisp, refreshing acidity. And it was dangerously quaffable.
Sauvignon Blanc vines are hardy. Bud-burst is early, with fruit ripening late, which makes production easy if excessive heat is avoided.
In Marlborough, winemakers enjoy excellent conditions producing fresh, easy-drinking wines – wines that younger, entry-level wine drinkers respond to with unbridled enthusiasm. With Marlborough Savvy, New Zealand had found the perfect crowd-pleaser. Not to be outdone, Australia’s Margaret River produces some of the world’s finest examples.
Sauvignon Blanc is typically a cool-climate varietal that’s generally best fresh, drinking when first produced and within two years. Traditionally, it displays green apple, asparagus, capsicum and gooseberry. Wines are usually lean and well-structured, with tropical fruits and citrus notes. Little Sauvignon Blanc spends time in oak barrels. But when it does, it adds complexity and shows more of the signs of winemaking.
Pairing with food
Typically, Sauvignon Blanc has a relatively neutral flavour profile. This makes it quite amenable when pairing with food. It’s perfect with a summer salad or vegetable-heavy dishes featuring peas, asparagus and zucchini. With fruitiness and clean lines, Sav pairs well with chicken dishes, as well as fish, crayfish and shellfish. Its sharp acidity also has the ability to cut through spicy flavours, which makes it an ideal match for many Asian dishes. Feta, halloumi and light, tangy cheeses rich in texture also sit well with Sauvignon Blanc.
Notable Sauvignon Blanc Wine regions
Marlborough, New Zealand - Marlborough Sauvignon Blancs display all the notes Kiwi Savvy is famous for: bright citrus, green apples, passionfruit, nectarines, gooseberries, capsicum and asparagus, herbal nuances and typical funky characters, underpinned by crisp acidity. Some of the world’s most intense Sauvignon Blancs come from Marlborough, with green fruit and herbaceous characters being the dominant regional indicators. Though not so well known, New Zealand produces premium Sauvignon Blanc using barrel fermentation and lees contact, benchmarking the variety internationally.
Margaret River, Australia - giving Marlborough a run for its money, Western Australia’s Margaret River produces internationally-recognised classic dry Sauvignon Blanc styles. These wines are renowned for their early drinking, sunny personalities, and are packed with tropical fruit and grassy characters. Other key Australian Sauvignon Blanc regions include Tasmania, Orange, Adelaide Hills, Currency Creek and Limestone Coast.
Loire Valley, France - the Loire Valley in France grows excellent Sauvignon Blanc fruit that is ripened slowly. This region includes sub-regions Pouilly-Fumé and Sancerre, known for their finesse and complexity. The wines tend to have softer, more citrus-related fruit characters and express the minerality and chalky qualities from the soil.
The future of Sauvignon Blanc
With its fresh tropical fruit flavours and crisp acidity, Sauvignon Blanc will always remain an easy-drinking, quaffable summer wine anywhere in the world a warm afternoon beckons.
Its ability to pair with salads, chicken, seafood and spicy Asian dishes makes it an enduring al fresco or local Thai BYO mainstay. Despite the challenge from Pinot Gris, make no mistake – Sauvignon Blanc is here to stay.