When the world got tired of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc was ready to step into its shoes. The producers of New Zealand led the charge with their clean, zesty, pea-pod and passion-fruited charmers. Cloudy Bay was one of the leaders of the global charm offensive, but there are many others including Isabel, Jackson Estate, Villa Maria and Wither Hills.
Sauvignon Blanc’s classic home is the Loire, and the lean, tense Sancerre, and the smoky, mineral Pouilly-Fumé. It is also the star of white Bordeaux, notably Graves and Pessac-Léognan where its green fruit is matched by the waxy character of Semillon.
Sauvignon Blanc is sometimes fermented and aged in oak barrels. This can suppress and overwhelm the glorious aromas of the grape, hoowever it can also give elegance and complexity if added to a blend, as in Bordeaux.
Bordeaux’s sweet wines depend on Sauvignon Blanc as an ingredient, ensuring a freshness to balances the intense sweetness. Chile, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa all have ‘late harvest’ or ‘botrytis’ sweet wines from Sauvignon Blanc.
Colour: white; pale with hints of green or yellow
Body: light to medium bodied
Tastes: famed for smelling of ‘cat’s pee on a gooseberry bush’, it can be pungent. Aromas cover pea pods, leeks, green fruits, through limes to passion fruit. It also has a bright refreshing acidity
Often blended with: Semillon (in Bordeaux for [dry] Graves and [sweet] Sauternes)
Spotter’s guide: New Zealand, especially Marlborough; France, especially Loire; Spain; South Africa; Chile; California
Price range: £5.99-£20 for the dry wines. £10-£100 for the sweet wines