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Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc, often called simply Sauvignon (while Cabernet Sauvignon is often called just Cabernet), is an extremely popular grape variety making crisp, dry, aromatic and extremely distinctive wines all over the world. The smell is sharp and piercing (unlike that of Chardonnay) and reminds different tasters variously of gooseberries, nettles, crushed blackcurrant leaves, and occasionally cat’s pee. With age, aromas reminiscent of canned asparagus can develop. The smell of Sauvignon Blanc (which is most of its character) is relatively simple, so it is not surprising that it was one of the first to be explained in terms of the dominant flavour compounds, called methoxypyrazines (a name to drop at a professional wine tasting). Sauvignon Blanc also smells and tastes remarkably similar wherever it is planted so, like Gewurztraminer, is a very good starting point for learning to recognise different grape varieties.

Most Sauvignon Blanc is fermented at relatively low temperatures in stainless steel with the intention of preserving every bit of youthful fruit. The wines are in general designed to be drunk as young as possible, although some of the fruit from particularly low-yielding vineyards can be concentrated to withstand oak ageing and may need a year or so in bottle before showing their best. I have tasted Sauvignon Blanc that has survived more than five years in bottle but very few that have actually improved as a result.

Sauvignon Blanc's French stronghold is the upper Loire Valley, and the twin appellations of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé in particular. The best examples of these wines are drier, denser and slower-maturing than most New World Sauvignon Blanc, and genuinely express terroir with nuances dependent on the proportion of gravel and flint (silex) in the soil.

Some of France's best value Sauvignon Blanc is made in the Loire's less famous appellations. Sauvignon carrying the straightforward Touraine appellation can be absolutely delicious in a good vintage - often more so than a Sancerre or Pouilly-Fumé from overcropped vines (a common problem). The three small appellations just west of Sancerre – Menetou-Salon, Reuilly and Quincy - can also offer excellent value. Sauvignon Blanc is also the grape of Burgundy's most unusual appellation, Saint-Bris, an exception to the general rule of Chardonnay or Aligoté as the region's white wine grapes.

Sauvignon Blanc, often blended with the fatter and complementary Sémillon, is one of the two dominant white grapes of south west France. Most white Bordeaux is based on one or both of these, with the most common blend for a sweet white Sauternes or Barsac being four parts Sémillon and one part Sauvignon, sometimes with some Muscadelle, the Sauvignon adding vivacity to the richness of unctuous, often botrytised (nobly rotten), Sémillon. Sauvignon Blanc is also grown in the Entre-Deux-Mers where it is increasingly important in improving Bordeaux Blanc as well as in Graves and Pessac-Léognan where, with Sémillon in varying proportions, it results in substantial dry, oak-aged white wines.

As in Bordeaux, Sauvignon Blanc is frequently blended with Sémillon in neighbouring Bergerac where winemaking standards have been improving enormously. Indeed all over the world, Sémillon may be used as a blending partner for Sauvignon and, curiously, slightly unripe Sémillon can smell disconcertingly like Sauvignon Blanc. Elsewhere in Europe, Sauvignon Blanc is a speciality of Rueda in Spain (where is often appears with the indigenous Verdejo), Styria in Austria and Collio in north-east Italy where piercingly clean, racy wines are made and the best producers are managing to make them more interesting with every vintage. Some German speakers call it Muskat-Silvaner (which mixture of attributes quite accurately describes how it tastes).

But the world's most famous Sauvignon Blanc is grown a very long way from Europe. New Zealand burst on the international scene in the 1980s with an extravagantly forceful, fruity style of Sauvignon Blanc and has never looked back. One region, Marlborough at the north end of New Zealand's South Island has set a benchmark for this style, in which bold flavours are thought by some scientists to have been encouraged by the notorious holes in the ozone layer in this part of the world. Here extremely vigorous Sauvignon Blanc vines seem particularly at home in the dry gravels of Marlborough's Wairau Valley. Cloudy Bay is the most famous producer but there are now countless others producing wines that are either impressively consistent or a touch boring, depending on your point of view. New Zealand has been so successful with its pungently herbaceous style of Sauvignon Blanc, heady with the tropical fruit smells of a cool, prolonged fermentation, that winemakers throughout the New World, and especially in Chile, South Africa and the Languedoc, are now emulating it. Marlborough at the northern tip of the South Island is New Zealand's, possibly now the world's, Sauvignon Blanc capital, while the Casablanca Valley has shown the potential to do the same job for Chile, although even newer, Pacific-cooled regions such as Leyda/San Antonio also produce particularly fine Sauvignons.

South Africa makes some delicious Sauvignon Blanc, perhaps partly because the vine has had so long to accustom itself to local conditions. In the cooler coastal Overberg region, the resulting wines can offer an attractively smoky halfway house between New Zealand and the Loire.

Much of Australia is too warm for the preservation of Sauvignon Blanc's characteristically "green" (i.e. slightly underripe) aroma but some fine examples have emerged from the Adelaide Hills, Tasmania, and cooler spots in Victoria and New South Wales. Western Australia has evolved a distinctively refreshing style of Sémillon/Sauvignon Blanc blends.

A high proportion of North America's vineyards are too hot for appetising Sauvignon Blanc, but California has its own style of full-bodied, slightly sweet Sauvignon, often enriched by oak ageing and, typically, called Fumé Blanc (although producers vary according to the style they label as Fumé Blanc and what sort of wine is labelled Sauvignon Blanc). Washington state can make some fine, racy Sauvignon Blanc and so, one day, may British Columbia across the Canadian border to the north.

By Jancis Robinson

  • Domaine Horgelus Colombard Sauvignon Cotes de Gascogne Blanc
    £9.25

    Domaine Horgelus Colombard Sauvignon Cotes de Gascogne Blanc

    Domaine Horgelus

    Domaine Horgelus Colombard Sauvignon Blanc is a refreshing and fun white wine that shows the sunnier side of Sauvignon Blanc, despite it only makin...

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    £9.25
  • Bladen Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc
    £13.90

    Bladen Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc

    Bladen Wines

     This superb Sauvignon Blanc has aromas of gooseberry, grapefruit, nettle and some floral hints. These give way to a plentifully fruited palate wit...

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    £13.90
  • Domaine Hubert Brochard Sancerre Les Collines Blanches
    £18.95

    Domaine Hubert Brochard Sancerre Les Collines Blanches

    Domaine Hubert Brochard

    Domaine Hubert Brochard Sancerre Les Collines Blanches has fresh and fragrant Sauvignon Blanc fruit with overtones of gooseberries and a bright, re...

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    £18.95
  • Paul Cluver Sauvignon Blanc
    £14.85

    Paul Cluver Sauvignon Blanc

    Paul Cluver

    Paul Cluver Sauvignon Blanc is clear and bright, with a hint of green. The nose is clean and fresh with expressive passionfruit, grapefruit, gooseb...

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    £14.85
  • The Doctors' Sauvignon Blanc
    £10.50

    The Doctors' Sauvignon Blanc

    Forrest

    The Doctors' Sauvignon Blanc is a classic New Zealand style that leaps from the glass with red capsicum, passionfruit and fresh herb aromas. It’s f...

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    £10.50
  • Ernie Els Sauvignon Blanc
    £14.90

    Ernie Els Sauvignon Blanc

    Ernie Els

    The 2017 Ernie Els Sauvignon Blanc shows zingy, bright, tropical fruits that abound from the nose and palate. A mélange of guava, pineapple and lem...

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    £14.90
  • Astoria Suade Sauvignon Blanc
    £12.00

    Astoria Suade Sauvignon Blanc

    Astoria Vini

    Astoria Suade Sauvignon Blanc has aromas of hothouse tomatoes, gooseberries and sweet green leaves. The palate is very fresh and has a perfect bala...

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    £12.00
  • Domaine Horgelus Sauvignon / Gros Manseng
    £9.95

    Domaine Horgelus Sauvignon / Gros Manseng

    Domaine Horgelus

    This delicious blend from Domaine Horgelus comprises 60% Sauvignon Blanc and 40% Gros Manseng. The Sauvignon Blanc element adds a superb fragrance ...

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    £9.95
  • Domaine Hubert Brochard Sancerre Côte Des Monts Damnés
    £28.00

    Domaine Hubert Brochard Sancerre Côte Des Monts Damnés

    Domaine Hubert Brochard

    From a vineyard swarming with poisonous snakes, on a slope so steep it can only be worked by hand - wines such as this Sancerre more than justify t...

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    £28.00
  • Bouchard Finlayson Walker Bay Sauvignon Blanc
    £15.99

    Bouchard Finlayson Walker Bay Sauvignon Blanc

    Bouchard Finlayson

    Bouchard Finlayson Walker Bay Sauvignon Blanc is bottled early to capture all of the variety's vibrant flavours and aromatic fermentation esters. A...

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    £15.99
  • Domaine Hubert Brochard Sancerre Terroir De Silex
    £19.95

    Domaine Hubert Brochard Sancerre Terroir De Silex

    Domaine Hubert Brochard

    Domaine Hubert Brochard Sancerre Terroir De Silex is a stunning Sauvignon Blanc with bright, rich fruit aromas of gooseberry and nettle that are ma...

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    £19.95
  • Tin Cottage Sauvignon Blanc by Bladen Wines
    £13.60

    Tin Cottage Sauvignon Blanc by Bladen Wines

    Bladen Wines

    This superb NZ Sauvignon has a bright, pale straw yellow colour  with tinges of green. The nose is tight at first then it opens to generous helping...

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    £13.60
  • Sol De Andes Sauvignon Blanc
    £9.25

    Sol De Andes Sauvignon Blanc

    Sol De Andes

    Sol De Andes Sauvignon Blanc has bright gooseberry aromas with a suggestion of more tropical, peachy fruit over the top. Fresh and lively on the pa...

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    £9.25
  • Domaine Hubert Brochard Sancerre Aujourd'Hui Comme Autrefois
    £19.95

    Domaine Hubert Brochard Sancerre Aujourd'Hui Comme Autrefois

    Domaine Hubert Brochard

    Domaine Hubert Brochard Sancerre Aujourd'Hui Comme Autrefois has a nose packed with intense gooseberry fruit and leafy nettle notes that also perfu...

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    £19.95
  • Bascand Estate Sauvignon Blanc
    £9.90

    Bascand Estate Sauvignon Blanc

    Bascand Estate

    Bascand Estate Sauvignon Blanc is estate-grown at Rapaura, in the Wairau Valley. Bright and fresh with hints of tropical fruit, citrus and nettle. ...

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    £9.90
  • Darling Cellar's The Capeman Sauvignon Blanc
    £8.70

    Darling Cellar's The Capeman Sauvignon Blanc

    Darling Cellars

    Planted strategically to capture cool Atlantic breezes, the vineyards that result in this fresh Sauvignon Blanc are on south-facing slopes. At firs...

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    £8.70
  • Château Ksara Blanc De L’Observatoire
    £14.80

    Château Ksara Blanc De L’Observatoire

    Château Ksara

    Chateau Ksara Blanc De L’Observatoire is intensely aromatic on the nose, with soft rich fruit, a zesty palate and a long, very fresh finish. This w...

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    £14.80
  • Indaba Sauvignon Blanc
    £9.95

    Indaba Sauvignon Blanc

    Indaba

    A crowd pleaser, this easy drinking Sauvignon Blanc displays appealing citrus and tropical fruit aromas that lead to a fresh, invigorating palate o...

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    £9.95
  • Vignobles Canet Beaux Lieux Reserve Blanc
    £9.20

    Vignobles Canet Beaux Lieux Réserve Blanc

    Château Canet

    Vignobles Canet Beaux Lieux Réserve Blanc is a nice golden colour. The nose is expressive with white fruits such as pear and peach, and real hit of...

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    £9.20
  • Lions De Suduiraut 2011
    £15.95

    Lions De Suduiraut 2014 Half Bottle

    Château Suduiraut

    Lions De Suduiraut 2014 has a youthful, exhuberant nose and enjoys aromas of candied and honeyed dried fruits. A juicy, direct style on the palate,...

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    £15.95
  • Henry Brochard Les Carisannes Sauvignon Blanc
    £10.95

    Henry Brochard Les Carisannes Sauvignon Blanc

    Domaine Hubert Brochard

    Henry Brochard Les Carisannes Sauvignon Blanc is dry, fresh and fruity, revealing bright gooseberry aromas, blackcurrant leaf and grapefruit citrus...

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    £10.95
  • Vignobles Canet Comtesse De Beaulieu Blanc Demi-Sec
    £9.20

    Vignobles Canet Comtesse De Beaulieu Blanc Demi-Sec

    Château Canet

    Vignobles Canet Comtesse De Beaulieu Blanc Demi-Sec is pale gold in colour, with a nose full of aromas of blackberry blossom. Rounded, rich, and gr...

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    £9.20
  • Valle Andino Sauvignon Blanc Reserva Especial
    Save 10%
    Original price £11.90
    Current price £10.70

    Valle Andino Sauvignon Blanc Reserva Especial

    Valle Andino

    Valle Andino Sauvignon Blanc Reserva Especial is a brilliant pale yellow colour, with pale green highlights. It has an intense aroma of ripe fruit ...

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    Original price £11.90
    Current price £10.70
    Save 10%
  • Stanley Estates Noble Harvest Sauvignon Blanc
    £17.90

    Stanley Estates Noble Harvest Sauvignon Blanc

    Stanley Estates

    Stanley Estates Noble Harvest Sauvignon Blanc is a ripe, sweet dessert wine with a sumptuous palate of citrus blossom, marmalade and honey, hazelnu...

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    £17.90