You can find this white wine grape on various continents, but its flavors are as unique as its regions.
By Stephanie Cain
Sauvignon Blanc is one of the most widely planted grapes in the world and with good reason: it makes an absolutely delicious wine that’s great on its own or paired with food. I, for one, reach for a chilled glass of Sancerre—Sauvignon Blanc from the demarcated region in France—after a long day at work.
But just because it’s the same grape doesn’t mean it tastes the same from bottle to bottle. Region, terroir, climate, and winemaking style all play a role in the resulting wine, which is why you’ll find wine lovers claiming their favorites from places like the Loire Valley, Napa Valley, California, and Marlborough, New Zealand. These wines range in taste from mineral-forward to luscious tropical fruits. There’s plenty of springtime florals too!
For a quick primer on Sauvignon Blanc around the world, here are the details on four major regions—and wines you can drink too.
Sancerre & Lot 126 Sancerre, Loire Valley France, 2018
Quite possibly the most famous wine region in the world for Sauvignon Blanc is Sancerre, in France’s Loire Valley. You’ve likely seen Sancerre everywhere, from the by the glass menu at your favorite neighborhood restaurant to the wine shop’s refrigerator, pre-chilled and ready for a cheese plate appetizer. It’s a now-classic expression of the grape, one you’ll find with the Lot 126 Sancerre. This bottling features aromas of white flowers and stone, but plenty of fruit flavors on the palate. It’s dry, and along with notes of apple and citrus, a fantastic accompaniment to that said cheese plate.
So where exactly is the Loire Valley? Drive about two and a half hours south of Paris to central France, and there you’ll find the Loire River flanked by vineyards. There are actually 87 appellations to the Loire Valley, and Sauvignon Blanc is one of the most widely planted grapes there. What sets Sancerre apart is its soil, a dark, mineral-filled blend of limestone and clay called Kimmeridgian marl. It’s the same soil found in renowned areas like Champagne and Chablis, so there’s clearly something to it!
Sancerre, though, only makes up a small percentage of the grape in the area, meaning there are great values to be found in neighboring appellations that have their own claim to fame.
Pouilly-Fumé & Lot 171 Pouilly-Fumé, Loire Valley France, 2018
That takes us to our next Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc: Pouilly-Fumé. If you haven’t heard of this region for Sauvignon Blanc, it’s time to get acquainted. Heralded for its production of the white wine, Pouilly-Fumé is located just across the Loire River from Sancerre. Its wines have a similar mineral-driven flavor, but Pouilly-Fumé offers something entirely unique: notes of gunflint and smoke. That’s actually how it got its name: “fumé” in French means smoke.
Now, don’t expect a wine that smells like a cigar lounge. The smokiness is balanced with fruit, like apples and gooseberry, as well as white flowers like lilies and baby’s breath. A perfect example is the Lot 171 Pouilly-Fumé. Its blend of fresh and savory notes—not to mention its mouthwatering acidity and super dry, long finish—makes it an ideal pairing to seafood dishes (think ceviche or a massive plate of oysters), a salad topped with lemon-herbed chicken, and, of course, cheese, such as chèvre or medium cheddar.
Marlborough & Lot 2 Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough New Zealand, 2018
We all love France, but there’s a new kid on the Sauvignon Blanc block: New Zealand. This country makes some standout Sauvignon Blanc, especially from the Marlborough region. These wines feature unique characteristics, namely, more tropical fruit and citrus flavors than the Loire Valley. The mineral notes are more subdued, but you still have the racy acidity that you love about the white wine—and makes it so good with cheese. (Picking up on the trend, yet?) But that vibrant fruit also makes it more versatile in terms of pairing with spicier food, such as Thai cuisine, Middle Eastern mezze, or garlicky prawns.
It’s no wonder, then, that the Lot 2 Sauvignon Blanc is 90+ Cellars’ most popular wine. It comes from the coastal Awatere Valley in the Marlborough region, and the area’s cool and dry climate gives the wine its blend of grapefruit, pineapple, and lemon notes alongside green herbs. With its stainless steel aging, you get a zippy white wine that you can drink year-round. If your pour this wine next to a Pouilly-Fumé, it’s easy to tell which one is from France and which is from New Zealand—the flavors are so well-defined and specific to each region. It’s a good party trick if you’re looking to impressive your friends with blind tasting skills, too.
California & Lot 166 Sauvignon Blanc, California, 2018
You may immediately think of Chardonnay when someone says “California white wine,” but Sauvignon Blanc is a close runner up. Tasting anywhere in the wine country of Northern California, and you’ll, more often than not, have a Sauvignon Blanc on the lineup. (For many of us, we like it more than the Chardonnay.)
So why does northern California make a stellar Sauvignon Blanc? It’s the same reason why you love the Golden State: the warm sun. This sunlight allows the sugar in the grape to ripen more quickly. What that means for the taste is that the wine will have a lower acidity and more robust tropical and stone fruit flavors. It’s like the mineral-driven French versions had a baby with the fruity New Zealand wines, the perfect compromise.
In the Lot 166 Sauvignon Blanc, you find punchy peach notes in a wine that feels luscious in your mouth. On the backend, there’s a hint of earth with a herbaceous finish. It’s no surprise you’ll want a slice of cheese, but this wine can also stand up to the strong ingredients of a Greek salad, fresh California produce, and the state’s staple cuisine: Mexican. Fish tacos anyone?
Stephanie Cain is a journalist and content strategist who has experience as a magazine editor, digital producer, content marketer and public speaker. She's also a sommelier accredited by the Court of Master Sommeliers. Follow her travels and tastings on Instagram @stephncain and check out her blog Uptown or Nowhere.