Sauvignon Blanc is a green grape from France, that has become one of the most appreciated varieties in the world, now reported to be planted in thirty-two countries.
There are two things that are likely to come to your mind when you hear about Sauvignon Blanc – its high acidity level and the characteristic aromas and flavours. Sometimes it is called cat pee, but a more “diplomatic” description is that of Box (Buxus sempervirens), elder flowers, and nettles. You will also typically find leafs of black current, gooseberries, and green apples. If from Pouilly-Fumé, wines tend to also expose minerality, often described as flint or gunflint.
Most winemakers prefer to keep the variety’s naturally high acidity, meaning fermentation in steel tanks and at low temperatures (as low as 6-10°C/42-50°F ). The result is a dry and aromatic wine with an inviting crispiness to it. There are also examples of Sauvignon Blanc having gone through malolactic fermentation as well as fermentation and maturation in oak. However, from a global perspective, the latter is definitely more exception than rule.
The upper Loire Valley, especially Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé are recognised for producing some of the finest expressions of Sauvignon Blanc. Marlborough on New Zealand’s South Island has in a short period of time established themselves as a runner-up when it comes to producing the crisp wines that the variety is well known for.
When produced in warm climates, some of the acidity tends to go lost, and the wines will come with less crispiness and more roundness to them. This is often the case with Sauvignon Blanc wines from for example Chile.
Sauvignon Blanc is an excellent companion to various kinds of seafood and fish dishes, as well as with goat cheese. The wine is best served at 8-10°C/46-50°F.
Where is it grown?
Sauvignon Blanc is one of the big varieties, planted in no less than thirty-two countries. In 2010, its world-wide acreage mounted to 111.549 ha/275,642 ac, making it the eighth most planted variety on the planet. (Still this means that it covered only 2,4% of the world’s area planted with vines). It is also increasing in popularity, between 2000 and 2010, the acreage increased with seventy-one percent.
- France 27.931 ha/69.018 ac (an increase with 33%), MPG 11, PTPA 3,3%. Plantings above all in Loire, Bourgogne, and Bordeaux.
- New Zealand 16.205 ha/40,043 (close to a six-fold increase), MPG 1, PTPA 51%
- Chile 12.159 ha/30,046 ac (an increase with 83%), MPG 3, PTPA 11%
- South Africa 9.551 ha/23,600 (an increase with 76%), MPG 5, PTPA 10%
- Moldavia 8.151 ha/20,142, MPG 4, PTPA 9%
- USA 6.584 ha/16,270 ac (an increase with 57%), MPG 9, PTPA 3%
- Australia 6.467 ha/15,981 ac (an increase with 149%), MPG 5, PTPA 4%
- Romania 4.157 ha/10,272 ac (a decrease with 10%), MPG 8, PTPA 3%
- Spain 4.011 ha/9,911 ac (a seven-fold increase), MPG 29, PTPA <1%
- Italy 3.744 ha/9,252 ac (an increase with 13%), MPG 37, PTPA <1%
- Ukraine 3.123 ha/7,718 ac, MPG 4, PTPA 6%
- Argentina 2.296 ha/5,673 ac (an increase with 178%), MPG 16, PTPA 1%
- Slovenia 1.061 ha/2,623 ac ( a decrease with 13%), MPG 5, PTPA 6%
Five countries report plantings between 1.000 and 500 ha/2,540 to 1,270 ac
- Russia 951 ha/2,350 ac, MPG 7, PTPA 4%
- Hungary 907 ha/2,242 ac (an increase with 180%), MPG 27, PTPA 2%
- Austria 845 ha/2,088 ac, (an increase with 169%), MPG 12, PTPA 2%
- Czech Rep 804 ha/1,987 ac, MPG 8, PTPA 5%
- Germany 516 ha/1,275 ac, MPG 24, PTPA n<1%
An additional fourteen countries report of plantings of various size, from 320 to 1 ha/791 to 2,5 ac (presented in order of decreasing acreage); Canada, Israel, Greece, Croatia, Slovakia, Portugal, Uruguay, Turkey, Switzerland, Mexico, Brazil, Myanmar, United Kingdom, and China.
The plantings in 2000 in Bulgaria (405 ha/1,000 ac), are not reported in 2010.
There are two competing stories as to where Sauvignon Blanc has originated. One is that is native to the Bordeaux region, the other one is that it originated in the upper part of the Loire Valley, in the districts of Sancerre and Pouilly, where still some of its finest expressions are produced. It is however difficult to prove which one is the correct one. The fact that Sauvignon Blanc is genetically closely related to the Loire variety Chenin Blanc however talks in favour of Val de Loire actually being its true heartland.
It is an old variety. Close to one-hundred synonyms is a strong indication that this really is so. The earliest documentation id dated some three-hundred years ago.