Sauvignon Blanc dates back to 18th century France where it first gained recognition in the Loire Valley and in the Bordeaux wine vineyards as well. It is thought that the grape is related to an older variety, Savagnin Blanc, which is used in Jura, and even Carmenere. Interestingly, while Sauvignon Blanc is a white wine, the crossing with Cabernet Franc created the noble grape, Cabernet Sauvignon.
Sauvignon Blanc vines develop buds late and interestingly, it also ripens early. The grape develops best in temperate climates found in numerous wine regions as diverse as Bordeaux, California, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.
The characteristics of Sauvignon Blanc wines can vary widely. Much of that variation is dependent on choices made by the winemaker. For example. the length of time the must remains in contact with grape skins. Longer periods of contact time produce a more intense wine. But that is countered by a wine that offering less age ability. Temperature during fermentation also plays a large role in the wines character. With warmer temperatures, the wine develops more minerality, cooler temperatures accentuate tropical fruit sensations. Many consumers feel the best 100% Sauvignon Blanc wines are produced by Didier Dagueneau in the Loire Valley.
For blends, unquestionably, Sauvignon Blanc reaches it zenith in Bordeaux. In the past, the grape enjoyed tremendous popularity in the Bordeaux wine region. It was extremely dominant in Entre-Deux-Mers. Today, it is used more frequently in Graves, Pessac Leognan and for the sweet white wines of Sauternes, where it is prone to developing botrytis. In both regions, regardless of whether the wine is sweet or dry, it is most often blended with Semillon. Chateau Haut Brion Blanc is heads and shoulders over every producer of dry white Bordeaux wine. It is one of the world’s great white wines with the ability to age for decades! Sadly, with such a small production and a pent up demand, Haut Brion Blanc is perhaps the world’s most expensive, dry white wine. Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte, Domaine de Chevalier and Pape Clement all produce world class wine from Pessac Leognan.
Sauvignon Blanc is also the dominant grape used in producing the dry white Bordeaux wines of the Medoc. Chateau Margaux, Chateau Lynch Bages and most recently Chateau Cos d’Estournel are examples of chateau that produce dry white wine in Bordeaux. A few chateaux located in St. Emilion also make dry white wines using Sauvignon Blanc as the main grape. Most notably, Valandraud and Chateau Monbousquet.
The character of dry Bordeaux wines with Sauvignon Blanc in the blend ranges from waxy lemons, grapefruits to freshly mown grass. In the sweet white wines of Bordeaux, it takes on honey coated, tropical fruit sensations. While numerous chateaux in Sauternes make outstanding sweet Bordeaux wine, Chateau d’Yquem is widely recognized as the one wine from the appellation without peer.