What a great way to kick off the first weekend in May…International Sauvignon Blanc Day. Yes, that’s right, a day devoted to drinking one of the world’s favourite white wines.
So what is it that makes Sauvignon so popular and how does it get those insanely punchy smells? We’ll tackle these questions, show you three belting examples you don’t want to miss and reveal a few things you may not know about this heavyweight of the wine world.
SAUVIGNON’S RISE TO STARDOM
Sauvignon Blanc’s no newcomer to the world of wine. It’s thought to have originated in the central French region of the Loire valley as early as 1500 and its mass of foliage (yes, these vines grow like weeds if they’re not kept under control!) and the shape of the leaves were similar to wild (sauvage) vines (vigne). Hence the name.
It spread from the Loire to other regions across France, notably Bordeaux where it crossed with the red variety Cabernet Franc to create Cabernet Sauvignon sometime in the early 18th century. Sounds a bit odd I know but it’s been genetically proven.
It wasn’t until the early 1980s that Sauvignon Blanc really lit the blue touchpaper. In the sunny but relatively cool Marlborough region of New Zealand, a bunch of visionary winemakers started planting vineyards with an emphasis on Sauvignon Blanc. With an established dairy industry, they had access to cutting edge stainless steel manufacturers too so it made sense to create fermentation vessels from this rather than any other material. The combination of keeping the fermenting grapes cool and free from oxygen helped establish New Zealand’s distinctive style of Sauvignon. The rest, as they say, is history.
Since then, global plantings of Sauvignon Blanc have trebled and it moved from the 25th most planted grape variety in the world around 1990 to 8th position today and it’s still going like a bullet train!
IS IT TRUE THAT SAUVIGNON BLANC CAN SMELL LIKE CATS’ P*SS?
Yes, I’m being dead straight when I say that some Sauvignon’s can give off an aroma like Felix emptied his bladder in your glass while you were glued to Goggle Box. In fact, Sauvignon can give off all sorts of smells which are linked to unique chemical compounds in the grape and wine, one of which is the same compound found in cats urine. Hmm, nice!
Before I put you off your favourite Sauvignon completely, all you need to know is that it’s the naturally occurring methoxypyrazines (ooh fancy word alert) and thiols (there’s another) that give Sauvignon Blanc, and Cabernet Sauvignon come to that, that distinctive pungency.
BELTING SAUVIGNON NO. 1 – ‘THE LOIRE LOOKALIKE’
The Loire may be the birthplace of Sauvignon Blanc, and certainly Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé can cost you serious wonga, but it’s possible to find something that wouldn’t look out of place in the region and at a ridiculously good price to boot. The Umbrele Sauvignon from Romania is every bit as light and mouth-wateringly zingy as its French cousins and will have you smiling like a Cheshire cat by the time you reach the bottom of the bottle…standard!
BELTING SAUVIGNON NO. 2 – ‘THE THIRST QUENCHER’
Chile has long held a reputation for making wines that are seriously gluggable. Most of the Sauvignons that come from the area known as the Central Valley (so more inland) reveal the tropical end of the flavour spectrum and tend to have lighter acid levels. But head towards the coast and the cooling influences from the Pacific seem to jump inside the bottle giving the wines a thirst-quenching freshness that would make Heineken envious.
Step forward Los Espinos Reserve Sauvignon from the coastal San Antonio valley. If you want something spine-tinglingly delicious to wash down your fish and chips on a Friday night, this is your baby.
BELTING SAUVIGNON NO. 3 – ‘THE KIWI LOOKALIKE’
Believe it or not, the Veneto region of northeast Italy is climatically and topographically very similar to Marlborough in NZ. So it may come as no surprise that the home of Pinot Grigio is capable of making Sauvignon that looks and tastes pretty darn close to Marlborough too. When we tasted the Casa Defra 4 Generazione Sauvignon Blanc, we were itching to get it in stock. This is everyday drinking Marlborough with a Gucci makeover. Bellissimo!
TELL ME SOMETHING I DON’T KNOW
As well as Romania, neighbouring Republic of Moldova loves Sauvignon too. It’s one of their Top 5 most planted grape varieties despite lots of native stuff similar to its neighbour.
Contrary to popular opinion, Sauvignon doesn’t have to be necked within 24 hours of acquiring it, although who are we to judge! But if you are one of those crazy dudes who likes to put wines under the stairs to see what happens after a few years, well, splash out on Sancerre, Pouilly-Fumé or white Graves from Bordeaux and knock yourself out.
If you’re a bit of a foodie, Sauvignon is your friend. Basically, anything you would squirt a lemon over works a treat with Sauvignon. Goats cheese and Sauvignon is an epic combo, especially Sauvignons from the Northern Hemisphere. Spicy food and sushi are generally no no’s when it comes to putting a wine with it but New World Sauvignons are up to the job!