It’s also the name of the wine made from that grape*.
Sauvignon Blancs are medium bodied and light yellowish-green in color. While generally made “dry,” meaning there is no actual sugar in the wine itself, fruity flavors (like citrus, pear, and tropical fruits) can trick the tongue into perceiving sweetness. Herbacious flavors are also common, like green pepper or grass. Its high acidity makes it crisp and refreshing.
*Not all wine made from Sauvignon Blanc grapes uses that for a name. In France, they often call wines by the name of their region rather than the grape used — for example “Sancerre,” which is a Sauvignon Blanc named after the Sancerre region.
It’s grown all over the world.
The three most iconic Sauvignon Blanc-growing regions are France (particularly the Loire Valley), California (where it’s sometimes called Fumé Blanc), and New Zealand’s Marlborough region (pictured above). Whereas French Sauvignon Blancs are generally a little more subdued, New Zealand Sauvs have a TON of personality; they’ve got a super in-your-face aroma of things like gooseberries and fresh-cut grass.
If you’re ready to branch out, here are the best wines to try instead.
1. Austrian Grüner Veltliner
The most widely planted grape in Austria, Grüner Veltliner (GROON-ur VELT-lin-ur) is often referred to just as “Grüner.” It’s similar to Sauvignon Blanc in both its weight, high acidity, and some of its flavor profile, particularly notes like green apple.
Though some Grüners are made to be aged and therefore can be quite pricey, others are totally affordable. It’s best to let a wine salesperson know if you want to spend, for example, less than $15. The Bauer Anton Gmörk, pictured center, is a complex and tasty wine that retails for an average of $12 in the U.S.
2. Italian Falanghina
Falanghina (fa-lan-GIN-nuh) is produced mostly in Campania, the shin of Italy’s boot. Some believe it may have been the grape from which was made Falernian wine mentioned in Ancient Roman literature. (Also it’s a pretty silly word to say.) Falanghinas tend to have flavors like citrus fruits or apricot, with a slight spice, and silkiness in the mouth.
Falanghina isn’t going to be in every single wineshop or on every single wine list, but keep an eye out for it, especially if you’re at an Italian restaurant. The La Sibilia, pictured left, is bright and delicious, and would be great with a seafood pasta.
3. Greek Moschofilero
Many wine experts agree that Greek wines are generally undervalued here in the States and elsewhere in the world. This is partly because even though wine has been made in Greece for thousands of years, the Greeks are consuming most of that wine at home, not marketing to an international audience. Some white wines are making headway in American markets, like Moschofilero, a grape grown primarily in the Peloponnese.
Moschofilero may not be an easy wine to find. That said, never be afraid to ask whether your wineshop carries (and recommends) this or any other Greek white; another common grape is Assyrtiko. Precisely because consumers aren’t necessarily asking about Moschofilero very often, chances are you may get a good wine for your money. But it never hurts to try! The Semeli Mountain Sun, pictured left, was a super-fun wine, bright and fruity.
4. Argentinian Torrontes
Torrontes (to-RON-tes) is the signature white grape of Argentina. Like Sauvignon Blanc, it’s light bodied and aromatic, meaning it smells like many things, particularly flowers. Though some wine writers believe it could be the next big thing, it has its detractors. Torrontes’ bad habits include being too boozy or smelling like your grandmother’s perfume.
Argentina is exporting a lot of Torrontes right now, so you’ll likely find brands such as Crios and Alamos at your local wineshop (or even supermarket). As with all the wines on this list, the idea is to try a sip, a glass, or even a bottle, to see whether the grape is for you. Fortunately most Torrontes you’ll encounter will be affordable.
5. Spanish Verdejo
Grown predominantly in the Rueda region northwest of Madrid, Verdejo (ber-DAY-ho) has been praised by professionals in recent years for its quality. Verdejos are generally a bit more full bodied than Sauvignon Blanc, with slightly lower acid. In general, wines from hotter regions like Rueda have less subtly complex flavors than wines from cooler ones.
6. Italian Vermentino
Planted mostly on Mediterranean island of Sardinia, Vermentino (ver-men-TIN-o) is a very good Sauv substitute. It’s high in acid and has a citrus-y aroma. Though Italy is better known for its reds, its native whites are being regarded by wine writers more and more favorably.
Always ask whether there’s a particular Vermentino a wine salesperson has tried and recommends. The Nuraghe Crabioni, left, is bright and lemony, and, as is common with Italian wines, seemed like it’d go great with food.
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