Sauvignon Blanc is a green-skinned grape variety which originates from the Bordeaux region of France. The grape gets its name from the French word sauvage ("wild") and blanc ("white") due to its early origins as an indigenous grape in south-west France.
Sauvignon Blanc is most commonly a crisp, dry, unwooded white wine. Whilst we may be most familiar with Sauvignon Blanc as a single variety wine, it is also used in blends with Chardonnay or Chenin Blanc, and, more frequently these days, with Sémillon, known as White Bordeaux blends. Plantings increased drastically in the 1990s making Sauvignon Blanc an exceptionally well-known wine locally. With the latest news that FNB has renewed its sponsorship of the FNB Sauvignon Blanc Top 10 competition for three more years, we can rest assured the investment in the category will continue. I think one of the reasons Sauvignon Blanc is the largest white wine category in South Africa is because it is a wine that consumers can easily recognise. Broadly speaking we have two types of Sauvignon Blanc produced locally. The first is grown in cooler climate areas and shows more green – grassy, herbaceous, green pepper, asparagus, fig notes. The secret to these flavours comes from aromatic compounds called pyrazines. The second, from warmer growing regions, expresses more tropical notes such as guava, melon and granadilla. In years gone by, there’s been much debate about whether greener (pyrazine-derived) flavours should prevail over tropical fruit (thiol-derived) flavours or vice versa whereas now the best wines tend to show evidence of both compounds, and are more multi-faceted as a consequence.
In general, the high acidity of Sauvignon Blanc has the ability to make most foods shine, much as lemon complements many dishes. Acidity also balances out salty and cured foods. Sauvignon Blanc will make an ideal partner to goat’s cheese and tomato tartlets or grilled asparagus with lemon, olive oil and feta. Other suggestions include: ceviche, raw and lightly cooked shellfish like oysters and shell-on prawns, dishes that contain raw or barely cooked tomato such as gazpacho, tomato consommé or tomato vinaigrettes. Also enjoyed with Japanese dishes such as sushi and sashimi, seafood-based steamed and fried dim sum or seafood with south-east Asian flavours such as lime, chilli and coriander or Thai fishcakes.