Happy Summer, Winos! Those of us who live in the Phoenix, Arizona area have been experiencing summer for a solid 3 months. From now until September, we accept “Excessive Heat Warnings” of over 110 degrees as just another summer day.
Whether you are experiencing excessive heat or just regular ol’ “hot and humid”, nothing goes better with heat than refreshing alcoholic beverages. And I presume that wine is your alcoholic beverage of choice. One of the most refreshing wines to sip on by the pool or beach is Sauvignon Blanc.
Q: Is “Sauvignon Blanc” a grape varietal or a region?
A: Grape varietal.
Wines made from primarily one grape varietal are often referred to by their varietal. E.g. [the bracketed words are not usually stated.] “That bottle of [wine made from] Sauvignon Blanc [grapes] has a lovely balance of fruit flavors and minerality.”
Like many grapes, Sauvignon Blanc can result in a large range of flavor and style in the bottle depending on where it is grown and how it is made. A Sauvignon Blanc from France, for example, has a different flavor profile than that of California. Sure, there are common characteristics across the board, but understanding the differences helps us refine our palates. Here’s a quick look at the different flavor profiles between each of the key regions that produce Sauvignon Blanc.
Note: There are, of course, more regions that make Sauvignon Blanc. For the sake of blog posting length, I’m just covering these primary SB growing areas!
General Characteristics of Sauvignon Blanc:
Dry, white wine that is typically light to medium bodied and has an herbal undertone. From there, the wine can have fruity, floral, and/or smoky characteristics.
- Region: Loire Valley
- On the Label: “Sancerre” or “Pouilly-Fumé”
- Typical Flavors: Herbal, Smokey (gunflint)
- Typical Characteristics: Crisp, Focused, Elegant
WINE-KNOW PAUSE: Ok – are you thinking… “Gunflint’?! What the heck kind of flavor is that?!” Well, think smoky, but that sort of metallic smokiness that you can smell after shooting a cap. This is caused by the kind of soil/gravel that the vines grow in!
- Region: Bordeux
- On the Label: Graves
- Note: White wines from Graves are a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and another grape called Semillon. This changes the flavor profile quite a bit.
- Typical Flavors: Honey, Minerals
- Typical Characteristics: Rich, Round, Bright
Note about “On the Label”: European/French wines don’t always include the grape varietal (“Sauvignon Blanc”) on the label, so look for a white wine with these words on the label. They are regions that make white wine with Sauvignon Blanc.
- Region: Hawkes Bay, Marlborough
- On the Label: Sauvignon Blanc
- Typical Flavors: Grapefruit, Limes, Herbs, Melons
- Typical Characteristics: Crisp, Focused, Sharp
(I know – this is quite a range! But think green fruit and herbs)
- Region: Napa Valley, Sonoma
- What to look for on the label: “Sauvignon Blanc” or “Fumé Blanc” (<<it’s the same)
- Typical Flavors: Citrus/Grapefruit, Melon, Herbal
- Typical Characteristics: Refreshing, Vibrant, Clean
- Region: Casablanca Valley, Maipo Valley
- Typical Flavors: Melon, Floral
- Typical Characteristics: Light, Fresh, Some Minerality
- Note: Can be made from a different and similar grape called “Sauvignon Vert” or “Sauvignonasse”, but labeled Sauvignon Blanc.
South Africa, Italy, and Austria are also known for producing lovely Sauvignon Blanc.
Go get out there in the hot summer sun and taste the differences between regional Sauvignon Blancs! I think you’ll be quite surprised at how easily you’ll be able to pick up both the commonalities AND the differences. (Of course, Wine Star Services is always happy to help with such comparative wine tastings!)