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Weinberg’s Wine Notes #257 – Varietally Correct: Oceanic Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon blanc on the vineSauvignon blanc is a green-skinned grape variety from Bordeaux in France that most likely gets its name from the French word sauvage (wild) and blanc (white).  It is a component of famous dessert wines from Sauternes and Barsac and is widely cultivated in France, Chile, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Brazil, Moldova, and California.

A great food wineDepending on the climate, sauvignon blanc’s flavors can range from aggressively grassy to sweetly tropical.  When slightly chilled, it pairs exceedingly well with fish and cheese, particularly chèvre, and is also one of the few wines that can handle sushi.  A possible descendant of savagnin, sauvignon blanc typically produces a crisp, dry, elegant, refreshing wine, especially when originating in Australia and New Zealand.  It also rarely exceeds $25 per bottle at retail.

Let’s start with Australia.  Oxford Landing Sauvignon Blanc from South Australia has live-wire acidity and is very appealing for its lime zest and melon flavors that spread on a generous palate.  Robert Oatley’s version, from Margaret River on the west coast, is also fresh and vibrant, with delicate green pear and mint flavors that linger for quite a while.

So much sauv blanc!As for New Zealand, sauvignon blanc, along with riesling, was one of the first fine wines to be bottled with a screwcap in commercial quantities, especially by Kiwi producers.  Such neutral treatment (particularly in the short term) can only benefit vibrant wine, but the Palliser Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2012 from the Martinborough area still comes across in a minimalist way, with dense aromas of lemon and yellow apple that fade into clover and basil.

Of course, the most famous area for sauvignon blanc in New Zealand is Marlborough, and a terrific value comes from Makara, so peppery and full of minerality on the nose.  It’s the perfect counterpoint to later waves of juicy lemon and lime and just a hint of green apple.

There is certainly no dearth of great sauvignon blanc from Marlborough!  St. Clair’s Vicar’s Choice offers fresh cilantro and mown grass layered on red apple, red grapefruit, and green papaya.  Only medium in body, there’s plenty of racy acidity that lingers long on an herbal finish.

Undergoing fermentation - yum!The Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc Cellar Selection noses green apple and grass with a bit of grapefruit pith and Kaffir lime.  This has an intensely mineral texture with a tremendous concentration of crisp acidity and a long finish.

Finally, Matua Valley’s Sauvignon Blanc Paretai shines in greenish yellow, with aromas of sunflower and quince and flavors of pineapple and citrus.  The finish is sweet and the frame moderate.

Sauvignon blanc is usually consumed young because, except for certain dry and sweet white Bordeaux that typically have it as a major component and can age 15 years or more, it does not benefit from aging.  But more on these more mysterious wines, as well as California examples of great sauvignon blanc, in a later column.



Wine On The RoadWith Wine On The Road (, my wine-focused touring company, you can enjoy the ultimate wine country excursion with special access to top winemakers and their incomparable wines.  Wine On The Road offers intimate wine country tours that combine award-winning wines and exquisite dining and lodging with uniquely local flair and flavor.  We lodge at excellent and luxurious wine country estates (in 2011 we occupied an ancient castle that had been completely restored and upgraded with all of the modern amenities).  We eat at authentic local restaurants and visit wineries that embody the best expressions of local wine grapes.

Planned excursions include Italy’s Piedmont during the annual white truffle festival next November (currently available at, a luxury tour of the Napa Valley in October, 2013 (, and a visit to Mendoza and Buenos Aires, Argentina, tentatively scheduled for early 2014 (  You can learn more about this trip, book private groups in wine country world-wide and request more information on any of these tours by emailing me at




Oxford Landing Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2012 (South Australia, Australia) $9

Robert Oatley Sauvignon Blanc 2012 (Margaret River, Australia) $20

Palliser Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2012 (Martinborough, New Zealand) $20

Makara Sauvignon Blanc 2011 (Marlborough, New Zealand) $15

St. Clair Sauvignon Blanc Vicar’s Choice 2012 (Marlborough, New Zealand) $15

Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc Cellar Selection 2011 (Marlborough, New Zealand) $17

Matua Valley Sauvignon Blanc Paretai 2011 (Marlborough, New Zealand) $21

4 comments to Weinberg’s Wine Notes #257 – Varietally Correct: Oceanic Sauvignon Blanc

  • Paul Skizinski

    Good article on a white wine I enjoy. And may I suggest a future column on another under-appreciated white varietal? Chenin Blanc might be better known, more widely available and more widely enjoyed if it weren’t for the fact that in it’s homeland it is labeled by terroir rather than variety.

  • Thanks Paul. There’s a lot of great sauv blanc out there at reasonable prices, for sure. Chenin blanc is a great idea for a topic, I don’t receive a ton of them as samples and they rarely show up at tasting events but I’ll try to seek more out and do a column in the future. Thanks again and please stay in touch.

  • Brian

    Ben – great to see you last week, and nice job on Sauv Blanc, also one of my favorites…of course my personal preference runs towards the minerality of Sancerre and the riper but as complex Pouilly-Fume,said to be the harbinger of Robert Mondavi’s California Fume Blanc way back when…talk to you soon!

  • Hi Brian:

    Thanks for the comment, Pouilly-Fume is awesome wine when done well. My own personal favorite SBs often come in dessert format, mixed with Semillon :)

    Talk soon and please stay in touch.

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