Wine Profile: Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc (c) Wine Folly.
Sauvignon Blanc (c) Wine Folly.

In the 1980s New Zealand burst onto the international wine scene with crisp, aromatic Sauvignon Blanc from the Marlborough region at the top of the South Island. It was good. Really good, and thus New Zealand’s international wine industry was born. Although New Zealand accounts for less than 2% of the world’s annual wine production (France and Italy, the two biggest contributors, each produce over 15%, while Australia accounts for almost 5%), today New Zealand wine can be found all over the world. When I was living in York, England, some ten years ago, I found a bottle of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc in my local corner store.

Originating in France’s Loire region, Sauvignon Blanc is one of the eighteen noble grapes and is used in a number of France’s regional white wines, including white Bordeaux. It requires a relatively cool climate in order to retain its characteristic acidity and aroma, making it ideally suited to New Zealand’s temperate maritime climate.

Sauvignon Blanc is a white wine, typically pale yellow or even straw green in colour. It is sharp and acidic, with flavours including lime, green apple, and capsicum. Other flavours commonly encountered in Sauvignon Blanc include grass, minerals, and green herbs such as basil and lemongrass. It is not usually oaked, so lacks the tannins associated with red wines.

Sauvignon Blanc is light-bodied with a medium to high level of acidity and a typical ABV of around 12% to 13%.

That acidity means that Sauvignon Blanc is a wine I approach with some caution, having learned that it can irritate my mouth and throat (a problem I also have with certain fruits, such as apples). However, every wine is different, and the Sauvignon Blancs I’ve drunk and enjoyed far outnumber the ones I’ve had to abandon as simply too acidic.

Sauvignon Blanc should be served well chilled (8-10C – any colder and you’ll need to warm it up just to taste it). Because of this, and because it pairs well with lighter dishes like flaky white fish, white meats and light, herby vegetable dishes (think fresh spring vegetables and summer salads), I seldom drink Sauvignon Blanc except in the Summer. Your tastes may be different, however, and I’m a firm believer that the only hard-and-fast rule about what to drink when, and with what, should be ‘drink whatever takes your fancy with whatever food takes your fancy’.*

A medium-priced bottle of Sauvignon Blanc can be aged for up to two years, while a fine bottle could last as long as ten, although if you’re planning on aging wine it is wise to check the vintage first and take that into account when calculating your storage time.

*My mother taught me I shouldn’t drink alcohol until the ‘sun is over the yard-arm’, meaning not until lunchtime or later, which I consider to be wise advice unless a champagne brunch is on offer.

Sauvignon Blanc grapes on the vine.
Sauvignon Blanc grapes on the vine.

Always drink responsibly. One standard drink of wine is approximately 100ml (3.3 fl oz). The New Zealand Ministry of Health recommends that women consume no more than 2 standard drinks a day, and no more than 10 standard drinks a week, and that men consume no more than 3 standard drinks a day and no more than 15 standard drinks a week (note that this is slightly lower than the limits recommended by the World Health Organisation). The World Health Organisation recommends that women abstain from alcohol during pregnancy. In New Zealand the legal drinking age is 18. Do not drink alcohol if you are under the legal age to do so in your country. It is illegal to drive while under the influence of alcohol.

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7 thoughts on “Wine Profile: Sauvignon Blanc

  1. Imagine my surprise when, after reading this blog post a couple of weeks ago, my local newspaper featured Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc in this week’s wine column. Since Sauvignon Blanc is one of my favorites I will definitely give this one from NZ a try 🙂

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