The world's most popular grape variety?

Sauvignon Blanc has gone global
Sauvignon Blanc has gone global

Sauvignon Blanc, to give it the full name, although often referred to simply as ‘Sauvignon’.

Not to be confused, of course, with Cabernet Sauvignon which is often referred to as ‘Cabernet’. In the last 10 years, Sauvignon Blanc has become a lot of people’s “go to” wine when it comes to dry white. Designated as a cool climate grape variety, it produces aromatic, zesty, crisp whites which seem to be very much in fashion. Wine, like everything else, tends to go through fashion ups and downs, as consumer interest changes and develops. However, I believe that the popularity of Sauvignon Blanc wines is here to stay, for a number of reasons.

Current theories point to the origin of the variety being the Loire Valley in France, particularly in the region around Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé, where some of the best Sauvignons in the world are still produced. However, the grape variety has been exported over the centuries and is now grown successfully all around the globe. Although recognisable in basic character wherever it is grown, the palate of aromas and flavours changes according to the climatic influences of the vineyard area. Thus, together with an array of viticulture and vinification techniques available to the wine-maker, a diverse range of styles can be produced from the same, single grape variety.

The Sauvignon Blanc vine is a vigorous grower and needs to be planted in soils of low fertility and low-vigour rootstocks, in order to keep the foliage in check. Different clones of the vine are often selected to suit both the soils and the climate and this too can have an effect on wine style. To preserve the acidity, a key element in these wines, the grapes are picked early, also capturing the attractive varietal aromas.

Wines made from Sauvignon Blanc need to be drunk young – the younger the better – in order to appreciate the crisp, refreshing, zesty style. In the UK, the variety has now virtually become synonymous with New Zealand white wine, although it was first planted there only in the 1970s. It has single-handedly been responsible for the enormous expansion of the NZ vineyards in the late 20th and early 21st Centuries. The style shows much more tropical fruit notes in general, in comparison to the Loire Valley wines which are more citrus and herbaceous in aromas, together with those from the Bordeaux region.

Sauvignon has gained great popularity in California, where light every-day, refreshing wines are made, alongside others with far greater depth and concentration. The quality and plantings of the variety in Chile is increasing all the time and some first-class wines are produced in the cooler areas near the Pacific coast. South African Sauvignon Blanc is a little more restrained in fruit character than New Zealand, but well-balanced wines are very appealing.

Here are six wines from around the globe, chosen to demonstrate the appealing range of different styles of aromatic dry white wine which is Sauvignon Blanc. Dourthe No1 Bordeaux 2017 £8.50 from the Wine Society. Touraine Oisly Domaine de Marcé 2017 £9.95 Olivers Coffee and Wine, Copthorne (The World’s best Sauvignon Blanc a couple of years back). Peltier Road 2017 Lodi, California £6.75 the Wine Society. Laborie 2018 South Africa £7.95 Errazuriz Aconcagua Costa 2017 Chile £11.99 Waitrose. Villa Maria Clifford Bay Reserve 2018 Marlborough, New Zealand, £12 Sainsburys.