Savagnin Blanc

Appears in
Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

  • About

Savagnin Blanc is the white-berried, non-aromatic savagnin best known as the characteristic white wine grape of the jura in eastern France. (Both this pale-skinned clone and a pink-skinned one may be called Traminer, the latter also Roter Traminer, while gewürztraminer is the aromatic, pink-skinned form.) Savagnin Blanc, often called simply Savagnin, is a fine but curious vine variety with a typically light crop of small, round, pale berries. In France, it is as much a viticultural curiosity as the wine it alone produces, vin jaune, is a winemaking oddity. France’s vineyard census of 2011 found a grand total of 510 ha/1,260 acres of this variety cultivated almost exclusively in Jura where it makes increasingly varied wines alongside—the sherry-like vin jaune. It may be included in any of the region’s white wine appellations, although most start off as potential vin jaune. However, many barrels are withdrawn early, rejected for vin jaune, and used for oxidative dry white wines, sometimes blended with Chardonnay. Since the late 1990s, however, a new breed of fresh, unoxidized ‘ouillé’ Savagnin, in which exuberant floral aromas can bear witness to the variety’s close relationship to traminer et al., has emerged, and caused a stir amongst traditionalists. Whichever style of wine is produced, Savagnin is always a firm, long-lasting wine high in extract and, usually, acidity. The vine is well adapted to the ancient, west-facing marl slopes of Jura but many believe it is at its finest in the steep vineyards of château-chalon, where it may sometimes be left to ripen as late as the end of October. The resulting distinctively nutty wine is the product of six years’ ageing in cask, under a flor-like film, and it can continue to evolve for many years in bottle, the special 62 cl clavelin.