The skinny on Sauvignon Blanc

September 20, 2012

Sauvignon Blanc (Sov-en-yawn Blonck) is usually a dry white wine with distinctive herby yet fruity qualities. It is considered to be a “medium bodied” wine that falls in between Riesling (light) and Chardonnay (heavy) which makes it an easy wine to pair with many types of yummy food.

It originally hails from the Loire Valley and Bordeaux regions of France, but New Zealand has been rocking some of the world’s best Sauvignon Blanc. If you have the opportunity to try some, please do! It will knock your socks off! (The photo I have above is of Starborough, and it’s one of my favorite NZ wines. It’s also usually under $12!)

Alternatively, CA and WA produces some AMAZING Sauvignon Blancs – Kendall Jackson (CA) and Chateau Ste. Michelle (WA) being two of my personal faves.

The Flavor Flave:

The flavor of this wine changes depending on the climate it’s grown in. While it traditionally has a “veggie” or “herby” flavor, the fruity character of it changes depending on the climate. When looking at a label, check to see where it’s coming from and whether or not it’s a warm vs. cold region because most of the time:

Warm = more tropical fruit styles such as mangos, peaches and melons (think warm beaches and juicy fruits)
Cold = more citrus fruit styles such as grapefruit, lime and pears (think cool, tangy and crispy)

How it is made:

Most Sauvignon Blanc is cool fermented in steel tanks. This gives it a clean flavor because it doesn’t get effected by the oak in barrel aging.  It is also commonly blended with minor amounts of Sémillon grape.

Sauvignon Blanc by any other name…

While MOST of the time your wine labels will be clearly marked as “Sauvignon Blanc”, there are a couple of other alternative names it can be called:

Fumé Blanc: (Foo-may Blonck)
Mostly likely you’ve also seen the fancy California name of Fumé Blanc. This is a Sauvignon Blanc style that is indigenous to California exclusively. It started when famed California wine maker Robert Mondavi decided to create a new label and style of Sauvignon Blanc in order to differentiate it as more of a “high end” wine. At that time (1966) the Sauvignon Blanc wines of the US were poor quality and overly sweet. Needless to say they were not popular at all. So Mondavi created a new type of Sauvignon Blanc to rival the world famous french versions coming from Loire Valley, France. He made it more dry and slightly “woody” by applying a slight amount of oak aging to the wine. Fumé Blanc was then born as a new marketing label that embodied a distinctly drier and elegant Sauvignon Blanc.

Today, Fume Blanc continues to be modeled after the Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc wines that originally inspired it. Although a few other CA wineries have tried to imitate it and have relabeled their Sauvignon Blanc as Fume Blanc, it is not the original produced by Mondavi.

Pouilly-Fumé: (Poo-yee Foo-may)
As we know, French wines are labeled by regions so Pouilly-Fumé (not to be confused with Pouilly-Fuissé which is actually a french chardonnay) or Sancerre are two popular french versions of Sauvignon Blanc.

White Bordeaux:
Just as red Bordeaux is a blend of reds such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc and Merlot; White Bordeaux is also a blend of Sauvignon Blanc mixed with Sémillon and Muscadelle. Sauvignon Blanc is *usually* a minor portion of a white Bordeaux, but I thought I would throw it in as an option if you’re feeling adventurous. 😉 The flavor can vary, but for the most part these will taste floral and fruity due to the blend.

Sauternes: (Soh-Tern)
Sauternes is an area of Bordeaux famous for it’s white dessert wine. This too is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon and Muscadelle. The difference from this white Bordeaux as compared to a dry bordeaux table wine is that the region of Sauternes is commonly effected with a fungus called “noble rot” which raisins the grapes leaving extremely high sugar contents. In return, these grapes are used to create one of the most famous dessert wines in the world.

Food Pairing:

Sauvignon Blanc is a very food-friendly wine and terrific for lighter fare such as shellfish, spinach-artichoke dip, grilled veggies, garlic or Italian seasonings in creamy sauces, fragrant salads – like Greek, Caesar or Garden, Thai food, sushi, chicken and the list goes on. Basically, I think it’s good with just about anything other than heavy red foods such as steaks and marinara sauces. But don’t take my word for it! Try it with everything and see what works for you!

How old is too old:

This wine is best purchased young. Anything around the current year or within the past 3 years is usually best. It is not uncommon for Sauvignon Blanc to be bottle as early as 4 months after it’s created and ready to open within 6 months.



Extra wine fun fact: The red wine grape Cabernet Sauvignon is the mutated crossing of the Cabernet Franc grape and Sauvignon Blanc grape. The crossing of the two created what we know as the “Cabernet Sauvignon” grape.





Tasty Vino
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