Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc is a green-skinned grape variety, which originates from the Bordeaux region of France. The grape gets its name from the French word sauvage ("wild") and blanc ("white") due to its early origins as an indigenous grape in South West France. It is now planted in many of the world's wine regions, producing a crisp, dry, and refreshing white varietal wine. Conversely, the grape is also a component of the famous dessert wines from Sauternes and Barsac. Sauvignon blanc is widely cultivated in France, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, California, and South America.

Depending on the climate, the flavor can range from aggressively grassy to sweetly tropical. Wine experts have used the phrase "crisp, elegant, and fresh" as a favorable description of Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley and New Zealand. Sauvignon blanc, when slightly chilled, pairs well with fish or cheese, particularly Chèvre. It is also known as one of the few wines that can pair well with sushi.

Along with Riesling, Sauvignon blanc was one of the first fine wines to be bottled with a screwcap in commercial quantities, especially by New Zealand producers. The wine is usually consumed young, as it does not particularly benefit from aging. Dry and sweet white Bordeaux, typically made with Sauvignon blanc as a major component, is the one exception.

The Sauvignon Blanc grape traces its origins to western France in the Loire Valley and Bordeaux Regions. At some point in the 18th century, the vine paired with Cabernet Franc to parent the Cabernet Sauvignon vine in Bordeaux. In the 19th century, plantings in Bordeaux were often interspersed with Sauvignon vert (In Chile, known as Sauvignonasse) as well as the Sauvignon blanc pink mutation Sauvignon gris. Prior to the phylloxera epidemic, the insect plague that devastated French vineyards in the 19th century, these interspersed cuttings were transported to Chile where the field blends are still common today. Despite the similarity in names, Sauvignon Blanc has no known relation to the Sauvignon Rosé mutation found in the Loire Valley of France.

The first cuttings of Sauvignon Blanc were brought to California by Charles Wetmore, founder of Cresta Blanca winery, in the 1880s. These cuttings came from the Sauternes vineyards of Château d'Yquem. The plantings produced well in Livermore Valley. Eventually, the wine acquired the alias of "Fumé Blanc" in California by promotion of Robert Mondavi in 1968. The grape was first introduced to New Zealand in the 1970s as an experimental planting to blended with Müller-Thurgau.
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