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Sauvignon Blanc

by David on June 26, 2009

Common synonyms: Fume blanc, Savagnin Musque, Sauvignon Jauve, Blanc Fume, Fume, Surin, Fie dans le Neuvillois, Punechon, Puinechou,Gentin a Romorantin, Muskat Silvaner, Feigentraube

Sauvignon Blanc gained its fame in the Loire valley of France where it makes the delicious Blanc Fumé, Pouilly Fumé, and Sancerre, but its original home is probably in the Bordeaux region where it plays second fiddle to Semillon as the most planted white. Sauvignon Blanc didn’t have much clout in the wine world until recently, when it was identified as the parent, with Cabernet Franc, of the noble Cabernet Sauvignon. Many believe that Cabernet has Sauvignon Blanc to thank for its hint of bell pepper.

This is a variety with some name confusion, for instance you might wonder what the difference is between Sauvignon Blanc and Fumé Blanc. The names are interchangeable, so there’s no official difference but, in the new world, choosing the name Fumé Blanc is often code language for saying the wine was aged in oak.

When it comes to the question of blending or oak aging, the best advice is to check with the individual producer. The Loire Valley examples aren’t normally blended or oak-aged, but both techniques are common in Bordeaux and in other parts of the world. A little Semillon in the mix can lend the wine some weight, heighten fruit and calm down the acidity a bit, making it the most common choice at blending time.

Sauvignon Blanc is a vigorous, high-yielding variety and it’s the grower’s responsibility to keep the vigor in check in order to avoid producing aggressively herbaceous, borderline offensive wine. It’s early to wake in the spring, which exposes it to potential frost damage, but is also one of the first varieties to ripen later on, which means there’s less risk of rain damage. It’s naturally high in acid, which means that cold-climate producers need to time their harvest carefully so the wine isn’t painfully acidic. Here in sunny Napa Valley we’re glad to see a variety that holds its acidity while we wait for the flavors to fully mature.

Sauvignon Blanc is remarkably versatile at the table, thanks to the bracing acidity. It’s as natural to drink Sauvignon Blanc with seafood as it is to squeeze a little lemon juice on it. It works very well with preparations that include citrus or herbs, such as scallops ceviche or a vegetable or pasta dish with lots of fresh herbs. Sauvignon Blanc is cheese friendly and is especially wonderful with its classic partner, goat cheese. You can find delicious recipes to pair with Sauvignon Blanc, or any other variety, if you go to Colleen’s Kitchen.

Flavor profile: herbaceous, grassy, citrus (lemon, lime and grapefruit), gooseberry, melon, hay, “tomcat”

Weight: Light to medium bodied, usually quite crisp

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