Sauvignon Blanc (so-veen-YAWN blahnk)
One of the most distinctive grapes, Sauvignon Blanc is a highly aromatic variety
that does well in both the old and new world. From the Loire
Valley of France to Marlborough
in New Zealand, Sauvignon Blanc has found many regions that bring out its unique
and delicious flavors.
Sauvignon Blanc's home is the Loire Valley of France, where it produces the
crisp, grassy mineral-tinged wines of Sancerre and Pouilly Fume (not to be mistaken
with Pouilly Fuisse in Burgundy
- that would be Chardonnay). Wine of this region is crisp and grassy, with delicious minerality and an
occasional gun flint/smokey character. In the 1970's, New Zealand planted its first cuttings
of Sauvignon Blanc, which in turn brought the country to the forefront of the
wine world. In New Zealand, the variety exudes its typical crisp acidity, as
well as pungent passion fruit and grapefruit aromas and flavors. In
Sauvignon Blanc is produced both in stainless steel (like New Zealand and France)
and with a touch of oak. The wooded versions maintain the acidity of the grape
but tone down the intense citrus flavors with subtle oak characteristics. Winemakers
differ in their addition or choice of oak. The grape also produces delicious
wines from Chile and
Summing it up
Successful Sites: Loire Valley, New Zealand, California, Chile, Italy
Common Descriptors: grass, lemon, grapefruit, passion fruit.
Learn More About Languedoc-Roussillon, France
For being in a country that is known for wine regulations, the Languedoc enjoys a great amount of freedom in its winemaking. With over 700,000 acres under vine, some of the most exciting and best value wines of are coming from this enormous and diverse wine region. Some refer to it as the "new world" of France. The region stretches along the land above the Mediterranean, bordered by the Rhone river on the east and almost reaching Spain on the west. Only 10% of the wines from the area are AC, with the remaining wines often landing in the Vin de Pays or Vin de Table category. Wines in the Vin de Pays category are classified here as Vin de Pays d'Oc.
80% of the wines here are red. The grapes of the neighboring Rhone region are popular, with the focus on Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Cinsaut and to a lesser extent, Carignan. White grapes include Rousanne, Marsanne, Clairette and other white Rhone varieties. Parts of the region are also enjoying success with international varieties like Merlot, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. For many of these international style wines, you'll see the grape variety on the label – very un-French, but since they qualify as Vin de Pays d'Oc, it's allowed. Not so for the AC wines of the region, which are relegated to using most of the regional varieties and labeling their bottles by region. Appellations in the Languedoc include Corbières, Minervois, Costières de Nimes, Banyuls and the largest of them all, Coteaux de Languedoc. Corbières and Minervois are found on the western side of the region and produce sometimes very concentrated red wines. Costières de Nimes lies just southwest of the Rhone and produces wines of comparable character. Banyuls creates decadent fortified wines with Grenache and Coteaux de Langeudoc does triple duty, using international and regional grapes to produce white, red and rose wines that are often fantastic values.
A region located between the Spanish border and Languedoc, Roussillon is often mentioned in conjunction with Languedoc, but is an entirely separate, albeit smaller, area. Producing white, red and rose wines, Roussillon is in the Catalonia region, which bleeds into Spain and France. The area has equal amount of Spanish influence as it does French. It is most well-known for Banyuls, a potent dessert wine made from concentrated old-vine Grenache. Vines are old and planted on steep, rocky, terraced hillsides overlooking the coast. The region is also making still wines, mostly from Grenache but with a good amount of Carignan as well.