Wine 101

Focus on: Sauvignon Blanc

The grape that gets everywhere, goes with everything and started a wine revolution half a world away.


Time to learn about one of the premier white grape varieties: Sauvignon Blanc.


I think Sauvignon Blanc and New Zealand comes to mind. But isn’t it French?

Sauvignon Blanc is an indigenous French grape (likely taking its name from the French word ‘sauvage’, meaning ‘wild’), but it actually grows all over the world. New Zealanders were among the first to start selling it in screw-cap bottles, sparking huge trade worldwide. It’s now the 8th most planted grape in the world!


I’m guessing there’s a difference between the French and NZ Sauvignon?

Not just those two: the flavour can vary depending on where it’s made. Cooler climates produce wines with noticeable acidity and green fruit notes. Warmer climates produce tropical fruit. Sauvignon Blanc is grown in France, South Africa, Chile, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, America… (we could be here a while).


Where do those flavours come from?

Great question. The tropical flavours like mango and passionfruit come from thiols, organosulfur compounds that smell fruity in tiny amounts, although you don’t want too much as they can impart a distinct garlic taste (not so great for wine, I’m sure you’ll agree). The grass and green pepper flavours come from a naturally occurring compound called methoxy-pyrazine that’s present in grapes and… you guessed it, green peppers.


So it’s mostly consumed as a single varietal?

Well, it’s certainly delicious that way, but Sauvignon Blanc is actually used in a lot of different places. Mix it with Semillon and you’ve got the perfect blend for the majority of sweet wines the world over. The most famous sweet wines that contain SB, are the exquisite wines of Sauternes in Bordeaux).


And is it fit for ageing?

Cooler climates with a long growing season can turn out Sauvignon Blanc fit for ageing. Too much and it will create vegetable flavours like pea and asparagus (which are definitely acquired tastes!), but careful care on the vine and some subtle oaking can create Sauvignon that ages beautifully. Everything in moderation, remember!


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