Sauvignon Blanc Is Hot

Sauvignon blanc is a wine that has become more popular over time. The grapes are grown around the world and each offers a slightly different flavor profile.
Sauvignon Blanc Is Hot
The grape has natural components in its aroma that are distinctive. (patjo/Shutterstock)

In spite of the fact that there is so much wine in the world that wineries everywhere don’t know what to do with it, one grape variety seems to be in such high demand that grape prices are rising, and consumers may experience shortages of their favorite brands.

Sauvignon blanc is that wine, and its current success is quite a turnaround from decades ago when almost no one paid any attention to it. Over time, its name has been changed so it could sell better, and it has gone through so many variations that some consumers may be confused as to what it’s supposed to be.

The grape has natural components in its aroma that are distinctive, such as elements of grass, new-mown hay, lemon peel, kiwifruit, fresh olives, cilantro, and several others that can be slightly like fresh bell peppers.

Not all of these elements will be found in every version of SB. Indeed, it would be a rare wine that had more than just a few such components. But the fact that they are unique to this variety makes the wines we see identifiable by aroma alone.

Or, rather, they should be. Winemakers in warmer regions often have found tactics in both the vineyard and winery that can rob the wine of most if not all of its distinctive aromatic fingerprints. Which is sad. Quality SBs should show some persona, not hide it.

This makes sense when you begin to realize how fascinating this grape is when it is grown in different climates and soils. New Zealand’s version is the most distinctive of all with aromas of gooseberry, green tea, and tropical fruit.

There is a slightly similar profile in Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley, but where the New Zealand style of wine is slightly sweet, most RRV versions are drier and can take on a bit more cellar aging. They can also be more floral.

Napa Valley can also grow exceptionally fine sauvignon blanc, but because people seem to want a much richer style of wine, many of these are aged in oak barrels, which ends up making wines that are slightly more like chardonnay, with richer textures and a noticeably oaky finish.

Some of the best places to grow sauvignon blancs that carry not only high quality but also reasonable prices are cooler areas of Chile. Most of the best New Zealand SB can be found for between $10 and $17 per bottle, but Chilean sauvignon blancs usually are offered between $7 and $14.

The classic example of European SB comes from the eastern Loire Valley, where the wines’ personality is more oriented toward completely dry, sometimes even austere wines that are clearly best when served beside delicate seafood dishes.

Sauvignon blanc really prefers climates that are cooler than most locations in Australia. Down under, semillon (which smells like a distant cousin of SB) is more popular than SB. Semillon never really has caught on in the United States, although it’s occasionally blended into high quality SBs here, and the result can be sensational.

With all the excitement being generated today by alternative grape varieties such as vermentino, grenache blanc, pinot blanc, and viognier, it’s heartwarming to find as many interesting sauvignon blancs today as we do.

One more thing that makes it so enjoyable is that even if you buy a few too many bottles and don’t consume them all immediately, most SB will actually improve with a little bit of time in the bottle. It is not well known, but the wine changes slowly and can be fascinating when it reaches an extra two years in the bottle.

Wine of the Week

2022 Artesano de Argento White Malbec, Agrello Vineyard, Mendoza, Argentina ($15): For people who prefer more traditional aromatics, this unique example of white malbec has delicate hints of pear and nectarine and offers a lovely dry mid-palate and finish. Only 12.5 percent alcohol. Imported by Pacific Highway, American Canyon, California.
To find out more about Sonoma County resident Dan Berger and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at
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