The biddies profile a favorite white noble variety of theirs: Savvy B! Learn about the differences in Sauvignon Blanc from different countries and why this crisp white is a perennial favorite.
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- SB is one of the few grape varieties that makes delicious wines all over the world
- Sauvignon Blanc is said to originate in the Loire Valley where its synonym “fiers” was mentioned as early as the 1500s
- “Sauvignon” is derived from two French words – sauvage (wild) and vigne (vine)
- Apparently it’s a very vigorous and wild growing grape and it’s leaves are similar in shape to those of wild grapevines
- Savagnin: an ancient grape is one of the parents but seems like it was a single parent (we can’t officially identify the other)
- Siblings include: gruner veltliner, chenin blanc, silvaner, verdelho, and so on
- Most originated in central france as well
- One of its offspring is Cabernet Sauvignon
- This was a big discovery actually, until red grape could have a white parent and this was in 1996)
- Takes on different aromas, flavors, and qualities depending on the climate of its growing area, desires of the winemaker and the particular techniques that are used during the wine making process
- Generally speaking, sauvignon blanc is aged in stainless steel giving it a crisp, clean, refreshing, summery vibe
- Herbal and vegetal aromas that come from a group of organic flavor compounds called pyrazines which create “green notes” in wine like grass, green bell pepper and jalapeno
- First mention appeared in France during the reign of Henri IV in the late 16th century when the grape was known as Surin
- Some say between 1710-20 in Margaux
- Metnioned as Fiers in 1534
- From there the Loire Valley it spread to Bordeaux and that is where it spontaneously crossed with Cabernet Franc creating Cabernet Sauvignon sometime before the mid 1750s
- This region extends from the Atlantic Ocean to the Loire River, but the primary growing region for Sauvignon Blanc is centered around the Upper Loire.
- Harsh winds, frost and even fog can affect the grapes during their early growing season, although the valley also features summer sunshine mixed with rain. Regardless of the time of year, there is a significant change between its daytime and nighttime temperatures.
- The Upper Loire has a range of soils that contribute to the grape’s flavor profile, with chalk, limestone and clay most prevalent. Flint is also more localized, giving a smoky attribute to a few types.
- In the Loire Valley, the wines Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume are Sauvignon Blanc from the villages of Sancerre and Pouilly-sur-Loire, respectively.
- These wines are the most well known Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc, but not the only ones.
- Several villages to the west of the village of Sancerre also focus on Sauvignon Blanc. Reuilly, Menetou-Salon and Quincy are equally high quality but more affordable. Touraine, located in the upper portion of the Middle Loire, has some plantings of Sauvignon Blanc as well.
- Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc is crisper and more noticeably herbal, with refreshing chalk minerality and a hint of florals. The Sauvignon Blanc from Pouilly-Fume has one additional characteristic that sets it apart: the smoky notes from the chert rock found in the limestone.
- Unlike the Loire Valley, Bordeaux doesn’t put its focus on Sauvignon Blanc wines by themselves. Instead, Bordeaux does what it does best: blends. Bordeaux Blanc is the most common blend, in which Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc appear in varying proportions. Sometimes, other grapes like Ugni Blanc and Muscadelle play a part in the blend.
- Bordeaux produces dry Bordeaux Blanc and sweet Bordeaux Blanc. The dry blend is the specialty of the Entre-Deux-Mers, Graves and Pessac-Leognan regions, while the sweet blend comes from the Sauternais region.
- In most cases, dry Bordeaux Blanc has anywhere from 50 to 80 percent Semillon, with the rest being Sauvignon Blanc or a blend of other grapes.
- First planted in the Livermore Valley in the 19th century by Charles Wetmore (who had persuaded California legislature to establish the state viticultural commission in the late 1870s)
- The first cuttings originated from Bordeaux’s Chateau d’Yquem
- These cuttings were called Clone 1
- Planted at Gustave Niebaum’s famous Inglenook winery in Napa Valley
- Prohibition hurt this varietal
- Post prohibition SB was mostly turned into Sauterne (in France, Sauternes has an S on the end) but it was both sweet and dry jug wine
- Haut Sauterne or Good Sauterne was made at few wineries like Inglenook and what is now Robert Mondavi
- Another thing that hurt this varietal was Mondavi’s Fume Blanc… in a way
- When he released his first SB in 1968, he didn’t include the variety on the bottle. Instead he called in Fume Blanc
- This paid tribute to the variety’s French heritage the Loire Valley sub region – Pouilly Fume
- Naming it this helped distance itself from SB’s unfashionable reputation from its associate with aforementioned cheap, sickly sweet white wines
- Southernmost vineyards in the world
- First to see the sun rise each day
- Reasons why NZ’s wine industry blossomed
- In 1973, the British joined the European Economic Community so their dependency on meat and dairy from NZ ended
- Needed to find another agricultural product to boost economy
- NZ also ended certain bar bans like “Six O’Clock swill” and serving alcohol on sundays
- In 1973, the British joined the European Economic Community so their dependency on meat and dairy from NZ ended
- Considered a “gateway” wine for many new consumers and this country is responsible for putting SB toe to toe with Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio
- A country of 4.7 million and only responsible for about 1% of the world’s total
- Most widely planted variety with over 25,000 hectares of vineyard land but running out
- ¾ in marlborough, then hawkes bay & nelson
- Sauvignon Blanc was introduced to New Zealand in 1970 when six cuttings of a clone selection called “UCD 1” (came from the University of California, Davis) – for those super wine nerds out there now called FPS 01
- Apparently, the early cuttings served from what’s called “leafroll virus” but a persistent and length selection process has kept that disease to a minimum
- First vines were planted in Waimauku by Ross Spence (of Matua)
- New Zealand has a unique climate that impacts its wine style to be so specific
- High acidity, grass, grapefruit, citrus, slightly overpowering
- Bob Campbell, MW, “describes it as a “bungee jump into a gooseberry bush”
- First SB of note from New Zealand was made by Montana (now Brancott) Estate
- The winery was looking to expand beyond its Hawke’s Bay vineyards on the North Island by planting 2,900 acres of vines in the then unknown (as far as wine goes) Marlborough region
- Marlborough climate: long, warm days and cool nights with an acidity-enhancing maritime influence, minimum rainfall during harvest and free draining volcanic soils
- At the time, Marlborough grew more Muller Thurgau and Chenin Blanc but then 2 major events happened to change it
- 1) Due to a wine glut, NZ government paid growers to rip up their vines so many less desirable varieties were torn up and replaced with more profitable ones liek Sauvignon Blanc
- 2) Just in the 1980s! Outbreak of phylloxera – came to NZ later in life so most older varieties like SB and Chardonnay were already on phylloxera-tolerant rootstock
- Cloudy Bay: has played the the greatest role in the international success of NZ SB
- Established in 1985 – David Hohnen, founder of Cape Mentelle in Australia’s Margaret River region, was the first to produce PREMIUM SB
- Later was bought by multinational luxury brand group LVHM
- Tends to be more herbaceous and savory than Loire, typically a little lower in acidity too, but still more “nuanced” or “restrained” than a NZ sauv blanc
- Although there are records of it having been planted in Constantia at least as far back as 1880, the oldest known block of Sauvignon Blanc in South Africa can be found in the Swartland and dates back to about 1965.
- In the early years of South African winemaking, planting materials were riddled with viruses – most notably phylloxera – and generally of low quality.
- “This led to Sauvignon Blanc going into hibernation soon after those first records, only to resurface again in about the 1970s,” says Botha. “From there it just grew exponentially.”
- Covering about 10,000ha – more than 10% of all local vineyard hectarage – it is currently the fourth most planted variety in South Africa and, as Charles Hopkins pointed out, results in the sale of 2.4 million cases of 12 to the local market on an annual basis.
- Despite this resounding local success, South African Sauvignon Blanc hasn’t necessarily been making notable waves in the international market.
- At least not in comparison to regions such as the Loire in France and, of course, Marlborough in New Zealand.
- Inspired by Marlborough’s massive success, many South African winemakers started trying to emulate this style in the production of their own Sauvignon Blanc in the 1990s and early 2000s.
- “We ended up learning by mistake that we are not Marlborough and that, actually, we can make our own unique wines from our own vineyards,” concluded Botha.
- Technological advancements:
- There is, of course, a lot more to making a good Sauvignon Blanc than being blessed with the perfect terroir.
- Dr Carien Coetzee – who completed her doctoral dissertation on the effect of oxidation and ageing on Sauvignon Blanc’s chemical and sensory composition, unpacked a few of the technological advancements that have had the greatest impact on improving the quality of Sauvignon Blanc over the past 20 years or so.
- Firstly, she highlighted the massive scientific leap that came with the discovery of and ability to measure some of the potent aromatic compounds found in a mere nanogram of wine.
- “It was not long ago that we were actually able to identify things like methoxypyrazine (pyrazine for short) and the volatile thiols, and also how to quantify them,” Coetzee said. “In research circles, that has really opened up a lot in terms of being able to look at different winemaking practices and new technology and see what the effect is on the quality and aroma of Sauvignon Blanc.”
- “In terms of closure types, screwcaps have also been a big technological advancement, especially for Sauvignon Blanc which has those sensitive aromas.”
- The reason for this is that screwcaps typically allow less oxygen in than corks, which helps to slow down the breakdown of volatile thiols, which are very sensitive to natural hydrolysis and oxidation.
- Sauvignon blanc production is on the rise
- Casablanca and Leyda are acquiring a reputation as producers of world-class Sauvignon Blanc—some of which rival that of the iconic expression from New Zealand.
- In these two valleys, located along the Pacific coastline, the Humboldt current, morning fog and granitic soils help shape flavor profiles of the wines produced.
- Sancerre: 2020, 2019 (2015-2020 all pretty good!), 2021 not as much
BEST SAUVIGNON BLANCS
- Chateau Margaux Pavillon Blanc de Chateau Margaux
- Cliff Lede Sauvignon Blanc (CA, oaked)
- Henri Bourgeois Etienne Henri (Sancerre)
- Domaine des Berthiers Jean-Claude Dagueneau Saint-Adelain (Poilly-Fume)
- Astrolabe Kekerengu Coast Sauvignon Blanc (NZ)
BEST SELLING SAUVIGNON BLANCS
- Oyster Bay
- La Crema
Sauvignon Blanc Day is May 6