Sauvignon Blanc - History
The Sauvignon Blanc grape from the Bordeaux region is an acidic grape with green skin that is cultivated all over the world. It is believed that its name comes from the French expression sauvage blanc, which means “wild white”. Savagnin, a grape native to southwestern France, may be a possible ancestor. Sauvignon Blanc is used in the production of AOC Sauternes and Barsac dessert wines. It is usually a monovarietal white wine.
In France, Italy, Spain, Argentina, Chile, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and in the United States, in Washington and California, Sauvignon Blanc is widely cultivated. Some Californian Sauvignons Blancs are also produced in the form of fumé.
In colder climates, grapes produce wines with remarkable acidity and flavors of green grass, green peppers and tropical fruits (such as passion fruit), as well as floral notes (such as those of elderflower). In warmer climates, it may develop more notes of tropical fruits, but at the risk of losing aromas due to overripening, leaving only grape and tree fruit aromas, such as peaches.
Sauvignon Blanc wine from the Loire Valley and New Zealand is light, refreshing and fresh, according to experts. It goes well with fish and cheese, especially chèvre, and is one of the few wines that go well with sushi. It can also be eaten slightly cold with sushi. Sauvignon Blanc is one of the first wines bottled with a screw cap, after Riesling and other white wines. Their character doesn’t change much with aging. Instead, it develops vegetable, pea and asparagus aromas as it ages. The wines of the Loire and Sancerre are among the few Sauvignons with aging potential.
The Loire Valley and Bordeaux, in western France, may have produced Sauvignon Blanc. It could have evolved from Savagnin or Carmenere, but it could also come from Cabernet Franc or Cabernet Sauvignon. During the 18th century, cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon were planted in Bordeaux. In the 19th century, Sauvignon Vert and a pink mutation of Sauvignon Blanc, called Sauvignon Gris, intermingled in Bordeaux’s vineyards.
These intermixed grape varieties are common in France and Argentina due to different weather conditions. Before the phylloxera plague of the 19th century, these cuttings were transported to the Uco Valley in Mendoza (Argentina), where intermixed varieties still exist. Despite the similar names, Sauvignon Gris is not related to the rosé Sauvignon from the French Loire Valley.
In the 1880s, the founder of the Cresta Blanca winery, Charles Wetmore, brought Sauvignon Blanc cuttings from Sauternes, from the Château d’Yquet vineyard, to California. These cuttings were planted in the Livermore Valley. It is believed that Robert Mondavi gave the term “fumé blanc” to this wine in 1968. In the 1970s, New Zealand was brought to New Zealand as a site for an experimental Müller-Thurgau plantation with Sauvignon Blanc grapes.