Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc is one of three major white wine grapes—Chardonnay, Riesling are the others—and one that pairs best with garden salads and fish. One of few wines that shines with sushi.

Rambunctiously eager to please, Sauvignon Blanc over-produces and makes wines of little distinction when not diligently pruned. Happened in California, giving the wine a cheap white reputation. Some California makers responded by labeling Sauvignon Blanc “Fumé Blanc”—but then made it Chardonnay style (big, oaky mistake). The French call it Sancerre or Pouilly-Fumé from Loire River appellation: Sancerre is left bank, Pouilly-Fumé right. It’s all the same grape.

Although made in different styles, Sauvignon Blanc almost always is tangy and tart with crisp, clean fruit flavors. Many makers tame Sauvignon Blanc by adding small amounts of Semillon. Tastes include grapefruit, lime, grass, green fig, passion fruit, honeydew melon, lemon, even banana. Sauvignon Blanc often has a sharp acidic edge—sometimes described as a paper cut on the tongue, but in a good way. Drink some, you’ll get the idea.

New Zealand emerged as premier terroir for Sauvignon Blanc. The Marlborough region, with warm days and ocean-cooled nights, produces excellent values. France hangs in there. California has a uneven reputation—hey, they can’t do every grape right.

If you’re ready to join the ABC club (Anything But Chardonnay), flirt with Sauvignon Blanc tonight.


• Mud House Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. Passion fruit, guava, lemon. New Zealand. $15

• Simi Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc. Lemon, lime, grapefruit; crisp, acidic—tongue cutting done right. $13

• Roc de Chateau Vieux Sauvignon Blanc. Grapefruit, elegant, classic. $14