Sauvignon Blanc

Appears in
Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

  • About

Sauvignon Blanc is the hugely popular vine variety solely responsible for some of the world’s most distinctively aromatic dry white wines: Sancerre, Pouilly-Fumé, and a tidal wave of Sauvignon Blanc and Fumé Blanc from outside France, most notably New Zealand. The direct, obvious, easy-to-appreciate nature of varietal Sauvignon Blanc seems to answer a need in modern wine consumers who are perhaps more interested in immediate fruit than subtlety and ageing ability—which is not to deny that in many great white wines, both dry and sweet, it does also add nerve and zest to its most common blending partner sémillon. It has always shared a certain aromatic similarity with the great red wine grape Cabernet Sauvignon (something approaching herbaceousness) and in 1997 Sauvignon Blanc’s standing in the world of wine rose when dna profiling established that, with Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Blanc was a parent of Cabernet Sauvignon, the result of a spontaneous field crossing, probably in the 18th century, in Bordeaux. Further DNA studies have suggested that the variety’s origins are probably in the Loire; that it has a parent-offspring relationship with the historic savagnin Blanc (and is therefore probably its progeny); that it is probably a sibling of the chenin blanc of the Loire; and that it seems genetically close to Sémillon. It is certainly well-connected.