Written by: Tim Edison

Updated: January 4, 2024

Complete Guide to Sauvignon Blanc Wine | Wine 101

Sauvignon Blanc grapes on a vine

Love citrusy, crisp white wines? Enter Sauvignon Blanc!

Sauvignon Blanc is a unique white wine because it exhibits citrusy and tropical notes with refreshing acidity. It is noticeably bright and refreshing, with a pleasant minerality that can complement spicy and herby foods. 

France is the grape's biggest producer; however, Sauvignon Blanc is also New Zealand's most famous grape, and it is the fourth-most planted white variety in California (mainly on the coast). Simply put, Sauvignon Blanc has got around! 

This complete guide to Sauvignon Blanc covers everything you need to know about it. Join us as we deep-dive into this beautiful wine. 

Characteristics of Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc-characteristics

Sauvignon Blanc is crisp and bright with a dry profile leaning to bone dry. Old World wines like those from France have a light body and higher acidity; New World wines like those from New Zealand have a medium body with tropical notes. 

The typical Sauvignon Blanc is citrus-forward with notes of grapefruit, lemon, and passionfruit. Tropical fruits are consistent with cooler climates but also develop with oak aging, which can introduce herby, grassy notes. 

Like every wine varietal, Sauvignon Blanc has different characteristics between regions, but it is consistently acidic and dry with mineral notes. 

You can expect an 11 - 13.5% ABV, with the low alcohol content compared to other white varietals like Chardonnay, making it a great table wine. 

Sauvignon Blanc also has a distinctive color – medium yellow with a green hue. Aged wines are more golden, with a subtler green hue. The yellow color sits between young and old Riesling, a German white wine on the sweeter end of the spectrum. 

Sauvignon Blanc Tasting Notes

Sauvignon Blanc - tasting notes

One of the best things about Sauvignon Blanc is that it usually tastes like it smells, so you can see if it's right for you based on the nose. 

The distinctive pale-yellow hue and citrusy taste of Sauvignon Blanc make it easy to spot, but there's more to this white wine than meets the eye. 

Depending on the region, Sauvignon Blanc is intensely or mildly citrusy with powerful tropical fruit notes for an island holiday vibe. 

Firstly, Sauvignon Blanc is always crisp, with bright acidity to excite the palate. Flavor complexity is achieved with oak aging, lees stirring, and malolactic fermentation, which converts acidic malic acid into smooth, creamy lactic acid. 

With French Sauvignon Blanc, you can expect flavors of citrus, grapefruit, passionfruit, gooseberry, and fresh-cut grass. New Zealand and Californian varieties have tropical notes of guava and sometimes mineral notes. 

Spicy notes of tarragon, clove, and nutmeg are typical of lees stirring and oak aging, which produce a tangy wine ideal for pairing sweet foods. 

Sauvignon Blanc also responds to temperature changes, with less acidity and a fruitier profile when served below 48°F. 

oyster bay sauvignon blanc
cloudy bay sauvignon blanc
Sauvignon Blanc wine

How is Sauvignon Blanc Served?

Sauvignon Blanc is best chilled because higher temperatures bring out the harshness of alcohol. A serving temperature of 45–55°F / 7-12°C is ideal, with a temperature of around 49°F providing a crisp tipple that isn't too cold. 

There's no need to decant Sauvignon Blanc to bring out its flavors, but it benefits from sitting in the glass for a few minutes before jumping in. 

Speaking of the glass, Sauvignon Blanc is suitable for standard and oversized wine glasses, but a smaller glass will keep it cold for longer. Keep the bottle in a bucket or wine chiller and refrigerate with the cork/top on once open.

The Sauvignon Blanc Grape

Sauvignon Blanc originates from the Loire Valley, France, which is mentioned as early as the 1500s as "fiers." It is one of three prominent white grapes from the region, the other two being Melon de Bourgogne and Chenin Blanc. 

Although only mentioned as early as the 1500s, the grape probably grew in the Loire Valley for centuries before this. 

The name 'Sauvignon Blanc' translates directly to 'wild white' while the synonym 'fiers' (first mentioned in the 1500s) translates to 'proud.' 

Sauvignon Blanc grapes growing in vineyard

Today, Sauvignon Blanc is one of France's most famous grapes, ranked eighth in the global charts for the total number of plantations. 

However, while France might be Blanc's origin, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Italy, Chile, and the US also produce it in large quantities. 

Sauvignon Blanc's trip around the world took a lot of work. It was probably brought to New Zealand by Romeo Bragato, who visited New Zealand in 1895, and Italy got its first Sauvignon Blanc grapes in the mid-1800s. 

California got its first cuttings in the 1880s thanks to Charles Wetmore, founder of Cresta Blanca Winery. Today, Sauvignon Blanc is one of the most successful white grapes in the US, thriving in cooler regions of the North Coast. 

Notable Regions for Sauvignon Blanc

What makes Sauvignon Blanc so interesting is that it's so widespread and available in so many different expressions. These are the areas that are best known for producing the wine.

Loire Valley, France

Sauvignon Blanc has grown in the Loire Valley for over five hundred years, and the region remains the world's largest grape producer today. Loire Valley Cabernet is a citrus delight with fresh acidity and minerality. 

Marlborough, New Zealand

New Zealand adores Sauvignon Blanc, and it is the country's most successful grape. Marlborough is the country's leading grape producer, with the cool climate producing tropical wines with a hint of honeydew. 

Casablanca Valley, Chile

Chilean Sauvignon Blanc is light, refreshing, and citrusy, with bright notes of melon and honeydew. Most grapes grow in the Casablanca Valley, one of Chile's coldest wine-growing regions with a marine influence from the Pacific.  

Western Cape, South Africa

Sauvignon Blanc makes up only 10% of South African wine grape plantations, yet some of the best wines come from the Western Cape. The wine is true to its origin, with a citrus-forward profile and juicy, tropical notes.

North Coast California, USA

Californian Sauvignon Blanc is light and zesty, with lime, grapefruit, and melon flavors. The North Coast of California has a temperate climate, with temperate and dry summers mimicking the conditions of Loire Valley, France. 

Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, Italy

Friuli-Venezia-Giulia (or Friuli) Sauvignon Blanc is crisp and floral, with bright grass notes, minerals, and citrus. The warmer climate leads to early ripening, creating more acidic grapes that take well to malolactic fermentation. 

Sauvignon Blanc Food Pairings

The crisp, citrusy notes of Sauvignon Blanc make it the perfect pairing for seafood, fleshy fish, green vegetables, and herb-forward sauces like pesto. 

A more tropical Sauvignon Blanc works best with tart vinaigrettes, salty sauces, and spicy dishes like Szechuan chicken. 

Cheese also works well with Sauvignon Blanc, with goat's cheese pairing exceptionally well with aged, oaked varietals. Otherwise, fresh cheeses like fluffy ricotta, soft mozzarella, and crumbly feta pair fantastic. 

Sauvignon Blanc is also ideal for traditional nachos with chips, cheese, and salsa, making it an excellent choice for parties and get-togethers. 

3 Awesome Sauvignon Blanc Wines to Try

1. Under $15 - Giesen 2021, Marlborough, New Zealand

Giesen 2021, Marlborough

For less than $15, this is a steal. Giesen 2021 treats you with bright citrus notes, hints of apple, and a passion fruit finish with lashings of zest. The high acidity is ideal for pairing with fish and works excellently with spicy Cajun cuisine. 

The Giesen winery was established in 1981 and is one of New Zealand's top wineries, with over 700 acres across thirteen vineyards.  

2. Under $30 - Duckhorn 2021, North Coast, California

Duckhorn 2021

Duckhorn Sauvignon Blanc is fermented and aged using stainless steel and French oak, with the oak imparting tropical fruits and lemon curd on the palate. The refreshing acidity and crisp lime, and lemon notes make it great with salty foods. 

Founded in 1976, Duckhorn Vineyards is one of North America's leading producers of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Sauvignon Blanc. 

3. Under $100 - Accendo Cellars 2020, Napa Valley, USA

Accendo Cellars Sauvignon Blanc 2020_

A bold interpretation of Californian Sauvignon Blanc, Accendo Cellars 2020 has exotic lime and citrus notes with hints of woodsy green. Guava and honeydew on the mid-palate give it a tropical twist. It's very dry, with raspy acidity. 

Accendo Cellars was founded in 2013, producing wines inspired by popular varieties from the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. 

3 Fun Facts About Sauvignon Blanc

1. The Wild White Wine

Sauvignon Blanc comes from the French words' sauvage', which means wild, and 'blanc,' which means white.

The name originates from the leaves, which are sharp like the leaves on ancient wild grape vines. However, the historical text names it 'fiers,' which translates to 'proud' in English.

2. It's the eighth most planted variety in the world

Despite Sauvignon Blanc's popularity with connoisseurs, it is only the eighth most planted variety in the world, with around 123,000 hectares.

It is mostly produced in the Loire Valley of France, where it has grown for at least half a century. Globally, Sauvignon Blanc has more plantations than Pinot Grigio, a bluish-grey grape that produces the popular white wine varietal. 

3. It has a red offspring – Cabernet Sauvignon 

Several hundred years ago, Sauvignon Blanc met Cabernet Franc in Bordeaux and accidentally produced the red cross grape Cabernet Sauvignon, the most planted grape in the world today. 

Cabernet Sauvignon gets its tart profile and refreshing nose from Sauvignon Blanc and its fruitiness from Cabernet Franc. 

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About the Author Tim Edison

Tim started Wine Turtle way back in 2015.
These days he contributes to Wine Turtle (and other renowned wine publications) while continuing his wine education.
Tim's wine of the month is the Coates & Seely Reserve Brut NV (from Hampshire, England).

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