Wine Basics: Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc Grapes

Pronounced:     So-Vin-YAWN-Blonk


Sauvignon Blanc is a dry white wine grape varietal that can offer distinctive flavors of citrus, melon, fig, herbs and grassiness. When it is made in oak barrels, the Sauvignon Blanc grape showcases its vanilla and creamy flavors.  This wine is typically light, crisp and full of fruit flavors. An exceptional Sauvignon Blanc will have great flavor and texture that complement the citrus fruit beautifully.

Sauvignon Blanc can fall into three distinct flavor and style profiles. The first profile is a fruity style that often has no oak influence and bright citrus fruit (particularly grapefruit, lemon, melon, and gooseberry) that is evident in the aroma and flavor.  The second profile typically is associated with the scent of fresh-cut grass or herbal qualities and is referred to as “grassy.” This occurs regardless of where Sauvignon Blanc is planted. The third profile primarily is produced in California where winemakers have decided to make Sauvignon Blanc in oak, integrating a creamier style of white wine with hints of smoke and vanilla. These often are labeled “Fume Blanc,” which is marketing name created a number of years ago by Robert Mondavi to increase the sales of Sauvignon Blanc in California. The oak influence often lowers the crispness and citrus zest of Sauvignon Blanc and tends to create wine that is similar to Chardonnay in style.

Aromas and Flavors:

Fruit – Citrus (Grapefruit and lemon); melon

Grassy – Fresh cut grass; herbs

Mineral – Slate;

Oak – Vanilla, light smoke and spice

Food Pairings:

Fruity – Oysters, mussels, scallops and other shellfish

Grassy – Grilled vegetables

Creamy – White fish, salmon, chicken

Regions of Note:

Sauvignon Blanc is an indigenous grape in southwest France, but truly thrives in the Loire Valley. It is used as the primary grape to produce the white wine Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume. Separated by the Loire River, these two appellations produce whites with balanced acidity. These Sauvignon Blancs are meant to be consumed within a couple of years.  It is also the white grape used to produce the lovely whites of Bordeaux. In Bordeaux, Sauvignon Blanc is planted primarily in Graves, and usually is blended with Semillon to add further complexity and body to the wine. Within Graves, a number of the upper-end Sauvignon Blancs, produced in the prestigious Pessac-Leognan, are made in a creamy, complex style and are capable of aging, but also can be consumed when young and fresh.

Recently New Zealand winemakers have produced world class Sauvignon Blanc wines in Marlborough and the Hawkes Bay region with loads of crisp citrus fruit and a distinctive herbal essence. In the United States, Sauvignon Blanc is produced in two styles. The first is made in a similar style to that of New Zealand, and the other is influenced by oak to produce a creamy style.

Regions of note include the following:

Bordeaux – Pessac-Leognan, Graves

Loire- Poully-Fume, Sancerre, Touraine

California- Napa Valley, Sonoma County, Mendocino, Central Coast

Washington State

South Africa- Stellenbosch


Species:              Vitis vinifera

Other Names:

The Sauvignon Blanc grape is believed to get its name from the French words sauvage (“wild”) and blanc (“white”), and many of its synonyms reflect this origin.  Some of the more common synonyms for Sauvignon Blanc include:  Fume, Fume Blanc, Petit Sauvignon, Sauternes, Sauvignon, Sauvignon Bianco, Sauvignon Blanco, and Sauvignon Fume.

Sauvignon blanc also is known under the following synonyms: Beyaz Sauvignon, Blanc Doux, Blanc Fume, Bordeaux bianco, Douce blanche, Feher Sauvignon, Feigentraube, Fie, Fie dans le Neuvillois, Fume Surin, Genetin, Gennetin, Gentin a Romorantin, Gros Sauvignon, Libournais, Melkii Sotern, Muskat Silvaner, Muskat Sylvaner, Muskatani Silvanec, Muskatni Silvanec, Muskatsilvaner, Painechon, Pellegrina, Picabon, Piccabon, Pinot Mestny Bely, Pissotta, Puinechou, Punechon, Punechou, Quinechon, Rouchelin, Sampelgrina, Sarvonien, Sauvignon Bijeli, Sauvignon Gros, Sauvignon jaune, Sauvignon jeune, Sauvignon Petit, Sauvignon vert, Sauvignon White, Savagnin, Savagnin blanc, Savagnin Musque, Savagnou, Savignon, Servanien, Servonien, Servoyen, Souternes, Sovinak, Sovinjon, Sovinjon Beli, Sovinon, Spergolina, Surin, Sylvaner Musque, Uva Pelegrina, Weisser Sauvignon, and Zöld Ortlibi.

The Last Word:  Although Sauvignon Blanc is wonderful with food, it also is an ideal selection for a cocktail party or for enjoying on its own.

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