Your Guide to Sauvignon Blanc

Glass and bottle of Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc, pronounced “saw vee nyon blahnk” or “blahn” if trying to mimic the French, is one of the world’s most popular white wines. It’s made from green-skinned grapes that can grow in a range of climates to produce food-friendly wines at many price points.

Sauvignon can be crisp and grassy or juicy and tropical, yet always expresses trademark acidity. It’s refreshing, easy to identify, and there’s a style for everyone, which is why Sauvignon Blanc’s fan club keeps growing. Sauvignon Blanc has several synonyms including Sauvignon, Fumé Blanc (produced in the U.S.), Muskat-Silvaner (produced in Austria) and Feigentraube (produced in Germany).


What does Sauvignon Blanc taste like?

The Sauvignon Blanc taste is one of the most identifiable in the world of white wines for a few reasons. First, it always has crisp, high acidity. Second, it has a chemical compound called pyrazine which gives grassy, herbal or bell pepper flavors. When grown in cooler climates or picked early, the herbaceous green character is most prominent. In warmer climates or allowed to hang longer on the vine, the pyrazine character diminishes in favor of riper fruit flavors ranging from grapefruit, to passion fruit and guava.

Sauvignon Blanc is also expressive of terroir. For example, the wines of the Loire Valley take on the character of the soil, giving a flinty, smoky, and mineral-like quality to the wine. Most Sauvignon Blanc is aged in stainless steel and bottled while fresh and youthful. However, for the finest wines of Pessac-Léognan in Bordeaux, Sauvignon Blanc is blended with other white grapes and fermented and aged in oak.  

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What’s the difference between Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio? What about Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay?

Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay are all different white grapes used in the production of white wines. Each grape grows in a slightly different environment and has its own unique acid, taste, and alcohol profile. Sauvignon Blanc is typically high in acidity, full-flavored with mineral, grass and grapefruit notes, and has light to moderately high alcohol, depending on the climate (12.5–14% alcohol by volume). Sauvignon Blanc is grown all over the world, yet it is most famous from the Loire Valley and Bordeaux, France; Marlborough, New Zealand; Casablanca, Chile; and Napa Valley, California.

Pinot Grigio has moderate to high acidity, and is more delicately flavored with white peach, citrus, and mineral notes, with light to moderate alcohol. Pinot Grigio is most well-known from Veneto, Italy, but it’s the same grape as Pinot Gris, which thrives in Alsace, France, and Oregon.

Chardonnay is the most full-bodied of all three grapes, and is often aged with oak, unlike the other two. Chardonnay typically has moderate acidity, fruit notes ranging from lemon, apple, to pineapple, and moderate to high alcohol, depending on the climate. Chardonnay is most famous from Burgundy, Australia and California.

A bunch of ripe Sauvignon Blanc grapes, with the sun backlit
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Is Sauvignon Blanc sweet or dry?

Sauvignon Blanc is usually made as a dry, still white wine. However, some producers in Marlborough, New Zealand make sparkling wine with it or leave a touch of sugar for richness. Sauvignon Blanc is also used to make the famous Bordeaux dessert wine, Sauternes, where it is typically blended with Semillon and/or Muscadelle.

How should I serve Sauvignon Blanc?

Like all white wines, Sauvignon Blanc should be served chilled. If the wine is too warm, the alcohol will be more noticeable while flavors and acidity will taste dull. Too cold, and the aromas and flavors are muted. The best temperature range is 50–55°F, which can be achieved by two hours in the refrigerator or 30–40 minutes in an ice-water bath. If you don’t finish a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, replace the cork and stick it back in the fridge. The flavors will stay fresh for 2–4 days. Beyond that, the wine will start to oxidize. At that point, it’s best used for cooking.

Chilled half-full bottle of white wine and a glass of pale white wine on a Dutch angle
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How should I store Sauvignon Blanc?

All wine should be stored in a cool, dry place away from heat and light. Most Sauvignon Blanc should be consumed early and with a chill, so keep a few bottles on hand in the refrigerator. Either laying bottles down on their side or storing upright is fine.

How many calories does a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc have? What about sugar and carbs?

Sauvignon Blanc is usually made in a dry style. This means that after the grapes are pressed, the sugar from the grape must is converted into alcohol by yeast. When all of the sugar is converted, it creates a fully dry wine. Sometimes, a little sugar called residual sugar (RS), is left behind. This might be purposeful, to give a hint of richness and sweetness to the wine, or it might be because the yeast didn’t finish the fermentation. A few grams per liter of RS is still considered a dry wine. Of course, a wine without sugar doesn’t equate to a wine without calories. Alcohol has calories. Typically, a 5-ounce serving of Sauvignon Blanc has around 120 calories, so there’s around 620 calories in a typical 750ml bottle. Dry wines usually range between zero and 4 grams of carbohydrates.

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What are the best Sauvignon Blanc food pairings?

Due to high acidity and bright, fresh flavors, Sauvignon Blanc is a food-friendly wine. For lighter mineral-soaked styles, like Loire Valley Sancerre, Sauvignon Blanc makes a nice apéritif with fresh cheeses like chèvre (goat), or with oysters, shellfish and white fish like trout, cod and halibut. More pungent, herbal expressions like those from New Zealand, pair well with classic kitchen herbs and vegetables. Think grilled asparagus with parsley, sautéed green beans and mint, and big salads topped in basil. For protein, fish, chicken and pork, especially with citrus sauces, work great. Riper, higher alcohol Sauvignon Blanc like those from Napa, can handle heavier sauces and grilled white meats. The key is to match the wine’s weight and flavor intensity with the weight and flavor intensity of the food.

Published on December 17, 2018
Topics: Wine Basics


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