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Sauvignon Blanc: origins and organoleptic characteristics

Considered one of the most prestigious white varieties in the world of wine, Sauvignon blanc has its origins in France. It is a variety that adapts very well to new climates and the proof of this is its presence on four continents (with the exception of Asia). Its name derives from the French word sauvage which means “wild” and blanc meaning “white”.

Origins of Sauvignon Blanc

First of all, its regions of origin, as read in the World Atlas of Wines by Jancis Robinson, are the Loire, in particular in the area around Sancerre and Pouilly-sur-Loire, where the Pouilly-Fumé is produced and Bordeaux (Bordeaux ). In the Graves area dry white wines are produced, while in Sauternes and Barsac, sweet or dessert wines are produced.

Moreover, it is also good to remember that Sauvignon blanc and Cabernet franc are the progenitors, so to speak, of the famous red Cabernet sauvignon.

Sauvignon blanc reaches its maximum expression when it is planted in soils composed of silt or calcareous earth, in particular the kimmeridgian limestone type, which originates from fossil shells. In Sancerre and Pouilly-sur-Loire it is possible to find this type of land in abundance.

This variety meets two very different climates in France. In Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé the climate is continental (cold and dry during the summer and with a lot of rain during the autumn and winter), since it is located right in the center of the country. The sub-regional regions of Bordeaux, on the other hand, have a maritime or Atlantic (temperate) climate.

Since this variety is grown practically everywhere, it is not correct to describe its organoleptic characteristics in a unique way. Instead, it is possible to give a general description of the grapes and then mention the differences that exist based on their place of origin.

Organoleptic characteristics

France

The aroma of Sauvignon blanc is generally fruity (citrus, pineapple, green melon), floral (white roses and orange blossom), herbaceous (grass, parsley, tarragon) and vegetative (green peppers, jalapeños, green olives and asparagus). Even the aroma known as “cat pee”, so common in wines produced with this variety, is already accepted as valid.

In the areas of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé (Loire), the style of the wines is very elegant, aromatic, light on the palate, accompanied by a high and refreshing acidity. We also find a very pronounced minerality on the palate, which remains in the mouth for a long time. Aromas evoke citrus, herbaceous notes and even pumice aromas. The word fumé (which means “smoke”) is used because the composition of the soil produces a slight aroma of smoke.

The wines produced in the Graves and Pessac-Leognan sub-regions (Bordeaux) are very different from those described above. One of the main reasons is that the blends are usually made with the semillón grape, naturally following the philosophy of the region, which consists in combining different strains to obtain greater complexity. This combination translates into much more aromatic and floral wines.

Sauternes and Barsac wines are made with late harvest and also botrytized grapes. The main contribution of the sauvignon blanc variety in these wines is its acidity. That is, if it were not for the high level of acidity, these wines would lose their balance, because with so much sugar they would be very cloying. But with acidity as a counterweight, they acquire such high complexity that it is sometimes difficult to explain.

New Zeland

The Sauvignon blanc has undoubtedly placed New Zealand on the world map of wine producing countries. In the 1980s, some wineries started planting this variety in the Marlborough region. However, only a few years later, it became the largest and largest plantation district in the entire country. The style of the wines obtained in this region is unrivaled: an immense wave of herbal aromas.

South Africa

In South Africa, Sauvignon blanc is known as the “white grape of good hope”. It is the second grape of the country in terms of importance, and the quality of its wines has improved so much that on some occasions they have been put on par with those produced in France. Its flavor profile is very similar to that of the New Zealand wines described above, but besides this we find other very pleasant notes that recall Mexican flavors.

United States

California is an area where this grape is planted with formidable results. Despite being a white variety, it loves to warm up to warm temperatures and that is why we sometimes see it planted right next to the Cabernet Sauvignon. The style we find in California is very fruity: lemon, lime, grapefruit, even tropical fruits like pineapple, mango and melon. Some green notes like grass and tarragon, but never with the intensity we see in the regions mentioned above. The viscosity increases, seems more robust and round compared to the previous linear styles, while maintaining its high level of acidity.

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