In the United States, one might assume Sauvignon Blanc is almost as popular as Chardonnay, if not a little more so. In fact, both Moscato and Pinot Grigio beat out Sauvignon Blanc in domestic wine sales, with Chardonnay still leading the pack.
Still, Sauvignon Blanc is a grape that can produce truly world-class wines in locales spanning the globe. It can be sipped on its own or paired with a wide range of cuisines. Its juicy citrus tones and refreshing finish also make it a great wine to serve to please a large crowd. Below are five facts you may not know about this important white grape.
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Sauvignon Blanc is a parent grape to Cabernet Sauvignon
It seems a little strange that a grape responsible for light, crisp whites might be a parent to such a robust red grape. In the 1600s in southwest France, Sauvignon Blanc was crossed with Cabernet Franc to produce what came to be known as Cabernet Sauvignon.
Sauvignon Blanc can be oaked or unoaked
These days, most wine consumers think of Sauvignon Blanc as an unoaked wine. However, in Sauvignon Blanc’s home region of Bordeaux, the grape has traditionally been aged in oak barrels. The wines usually comprise a decent percentage of Semillon, a blending grape which gives the wine more texture and body. Although white wines from Bordeaux are not nearly as famous as their red counterparts, the most serious versions are very aromatic, have a creamy mouthfeel, and are highly ageable. In 1968, Robert Mondavi came out with his own oaked version of Sauvignon Blanc from Napa Valley, coining the term Fumé-Blanc. Although most Napa Valley Sauvignon Blancs these days are unoaked, Mondavi and other producers still release oak-aged versions every year.
Sauvignon Blanc is a truly worldwide phenomenon
Although Sauvignon Blanc originated in France, it is now grown all over the globe, with many unique styles and flavor profiles associated with individual regions. New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, which tends to give off incredibly intense notes of kiwi and jalapeno due to the country’s unique position on the globe, is a relatively recent phenomenon. The first commercial bottling wasn’t until 1979, but it has since skyrocketed in popularity. The growing district of Sancerre in the Loire Valley of France has also become a brand in its own right. The wines are grown on stony and chalky soils and are driven by herbal notes and minerality. The growing region across the river, Pouilly-Fumé, makes very similar, if slightly less famous, wines. Top-notch examples can also be found in Australia, South Africa, and Washington State.
Sauvignon Blanc can also be sweet or sparkling
These styles aren’t as prevalent, but they do exist. Sauternes, widely regarded to be the world’s greatest sweet wine, is usually comprised of Semillon with a moderate percentage of Sauvignon Blanc. Honig and Bodkin are two California wineries that produce sweet wines entirely from Sauvignon Blanc grapes that are left on the vine to concentrate sugars prior to harvesting. Cottesbrook and Villa Maria make sparkling Sauvignon Blanc in New Zealand. Sauvignon Blanc might not be capable of producing a wine on par with Champagne, but it can produce a citrusy, frothy wine very well-suited for summer sipping.
Sauvignon Blanc contains pyrazines
These are the compounds responsible for the grassy, herbal flavors that many Sauvignon Blanc fans find refreshing. In Sancerre, they tend to smell a little bit like caraway seed. In Napa, lemongrass is a common aroma. Bell pepper is another note that can be found in the ubiquitous New Zealand versions. This is an important compound as it is found in all grapes that originate in Bordeaux, France, from Cabernet Sauvignon to Malbec.
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