May the fourth be with you….ahem, I mean Happy International Sauvignon Blanc Day!! In honor of this special day, which falls on the first Friday of May each year (a big thank you to the New Zealand Wine website for the graphic above, I thought it was perfect timing to open up a sauvignon blanc, especially as it hit the upper 70s in Milwaukee! Cheers for warm weather and outdoor drinking!!!
I’d wager that nearly every person has heard of sauvignon blanc, one of the most common white wines, let alone wines in general. Why is it so appealing to the wine-drinking community? Well let’s find out!
Sauvignon blanc is widely thought to have originated in the Loire Valley of France, a descendant of the savagnin grape, though its other parent is still unknown. (Wikipedia claims it may also be related to the carménère family, which I can’t seem to wrap my head around.) It’s a green-skinned grape that tends to ripen early, but does extremely well in cooler climates, which allow a longer ripening season so the grapes can fully develop the ideal acidity and sugar levels. Because of rising global temperatures, however, some vineyards have begun harvesting their sauvignon blanc way earlier – if they left the grapes on the vines until the typical harvest time, they’d over-ripen, and produce dull/flat tasting wine. This grape is grown world-wide, and has helped put some of the ‘New World’ wine regions on the map (ahem, New Zealand).
Sauvignon blanc is typically aged in stainless steel vats, and rarely touches the inside of oak barrels, which would probably dull the brightness and crispness of this particular wine. It’s different than chardonnay, which folks typically look to for a creamy texture and flavor.
Here are some fun facts about sauvignon blanc:
- ‘Sauvignon’ comes from the French word ‘sauvage’ which means ‘wild’. Some think it may be named as such because of its wild vine growth which would occur, if left untended.
- Another reason it may be known as a ‘wild’ grape is because of the diverse flavor profile this grape can create – it can be tangy, earthy, cat-pee-like (apparently that’s a good thing?), savory, citrusy….the list goes on.
- Also known as ‘blanc fumé’ or ‘fumé blanc’.
- Sibling of chenin blanc, verdelho, and our grape from a previous post, grüner veltliner, to name a few!
- Is one of the parents of cabernet sauvignon (the other is cabernet franc).
- Makes up 86% of New Zealand’s wine exports, which still only accounts for 1% of the sauvignon blanc on the market.
While this grape does perfectly well on its own as a single varietal, sauvignon blanc is also one of the varietals included in the white Bordeaux blends, where it’s paired with sémillon and muscadelle. I’ll try out some of these blends for a future post, but here’s a refresher of our red Bordeaux blends, if you’re curious.
This wine typically offers a more tart flavor, with citrus, greenery (grass or herbs), green fruits or vegetables…just think green. (Maybe this would be Kermit the frog’s favorite wine!) Many associate the grape with light, crisp, refreshing wine that boasts high acidity and low sugar levels. It pairs well with fish and cheese (and outdoor adventures), and is also one of the few wines recommended to accompany sushi.
Okay onto the tasting! My friend Sarah partook in celebrating International Sauvignon Blanc Day with me yesterday, and we opened a bottle of the 2016 Prisma Sauvignon Blanc from Casablanca Valley, Chile, with an ABV of 12.5%:
Beautiful bottle, no? This particular wine is pretty cool, as it’s sustainably farmed and is completely hand-harvested. Surprisingly, even though it’s a manual harvest, it only rings up for around $15.
It’s made from grapes from three vineyards in the valley and, from their website, whose “sandy, clay soils and cool, coastal climate contribute to a bright, fresh character in the wine.” Alright, into the glass we go:
Appearance: This was a pale yellow color, clear and soft.
Nose: A strong perfume of citrus – grapefruit and lemons. Almost like you just finished zesting a lemon; so fresh and so clean!
Taste: The first sip was pretty tart – definitely caught that high level of acidity, with a mineraly or even salinic finish (a la the muscadet et sur lie from several weeks back). Maybe it’s because we had a margarita earlier in the evening, but I thought you could describe this as a lightly watered down margarita. The citrus flavors definitely shone through, and I think leaned more towards the lemon and lime fruits. Though it was tart, it was crisp and clean on the finish, and easily could be considered a wine that could be drunk on its own or with a variety of lighter foods.
Overall: Definitely something that’s perfect for the summer months, this wine was refreshing (as promised by the description of sauvignon blanc) and clean. Thankfully, I didn’t pick up any cat-pee flavors – PHEW! – which has been my struggle with white wines. I’d definitely drink again, and share with some friends!
Wanna add other international wine celebration days to your calendar? Check out the rest of 2018’s calendar here!
For some more information on sauvignon blanc, and to delve into the characteristics of the various regions where this beauty grows, check out Wine Folly’s helpful guide.