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The Grape Files: Sauvignon Blanc

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Grape-Files-Sauvignon-Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc is a grape that is cultivated at fewer wineries in Niagara, but those that dare are doing incredible things. This grape likes a warm climate, but also benefits from some cool weather. With a longer ripening season than other light white varietals, Sauvignon Blanc takes some care in the vineyard and a few different styles of winemaking attention once off the vine.

In Niagara you will find Sauvignon Blanc in two primary forms. The first – called, simply, Sauvignon Blanc – is crisp and clean and features tropical fruit, the classic gooseberry note, vegetal bliss and bright minerality. The other style of Sauvignon Blanc flies under the title Fume Blanc (a take on France’s Pouilly Fume) an indication that the wine has received treatment in oak barrels. A few producers in Niagara are bottling exceptional examples of Fume Blanc (Hidden Bench, Organized Crime) that are certainly worth exploring.

Origins

Sauvignon Blanc has made its name in a few primary winemaking regions in the world, including New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, Chile and California (this is not a comprehensive list, but should assist you with determining what is what at the LCBO) but has its roots (literally, but sure, pun intended) in France’s Bordeaux and Loire Valley regions.

In the new world regions (everywhere except France in this instance), Sauvignon Blanc is developed mostly as a crisp white wine. Some are slightly off dry, but for the most part there is a dedication to making the fruitful notes of the wine sing, and having the acidity act as the balance for those fruit forward notes. The wines will typically fall into the category of tropical fruit forward or grassy and vegetal. Both are delicious in their own right!

In the old world (France’s Bordeaux and Loire Valley regions in this instance) Sauvignon Blanc is a component of sweet and coveted dessert wines such as Sauternes, Sancerre and Barsac, is vinified as a dry and crisp white wine, and is barrel aged in French oak. These are incredibly sweet botrytis affected wines – definitely dessert style wines.

When shopping the French section at the LCBO be mindful that the following titles will correspond with the style of wine. The titles are sub-appellations of Bordeaux and the Loire Valley.

  • Entre-Deux-Mers (dry, crisp)
  • Graves (dry, crisp)
  • Pessac Leognan (dry, crisp)
  • Sauternes (sweet, dessert style)
  • Pouilly Fume (dry, smokey, barrel aged)
  • Sancerre (sweet, dessert style)

Pairing

Sauvignon Blanc is a very versatile grape and is found in a number of blended wine styles, including the classic white Bordeaux blend, but on its own, that is made as a single varietal, the pairing potential seems endless.

Pair your crisp and fruitful Sauvignon Blanc with white meats. Think chicken, shellfish, pork…oysters!

Pair your crisp and vegetal Sauvignon Blanc with food items that will complement those grassy notes. A personal favourite is asparagus, but I think leafy green herbs like cilantro, parsley, basil are also wonderful. If your Sauvignon Blanc is screaming aroma from the bottle, take it a step further and include some rosemary or thyme in your dish.

With the barrel aged Sauvignon Blanc, or Fume Blanc, you will maximize the pairing potential with full flavoured white meats. In fact, a whole chicken with thyme as the accent herb would be ideal.

Dessert wines love a blue veined cheese for balance, or simply sip them on its own. These wines are decadent enough to be the dessert!

The Author

Allie Hughes is the wine and culinary contributor to Naturally in Niagara, feasting on the decadent experience that is life in this region. With a fine wine sensibility honed at the International Sommelier Guild, Allie is taking the journey of Niagara by the glass with you with each new taste. Allie is also the creative mind behind the marketing of the Canadian Food and Wine Institute, and owner of Hughes & Co., a boutique social strategy firm.

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