Vin de France & Grape Varieties


Encyclopedia of French Grape Varieties

{ White Wine }


Sauvignon is an Atlantic grape variety originating from western France. Nobody knows whether it originates from the banks of the Loire or those of the Garonne. What we do know is that it was crossbred late, in the 18th century, with Cabernet Franc to give the world the renowned Cabernet-Sauvignon.

Sauvignon's characteristic varietal aromas, which are especially present in the first years wine is made from the vines, are quite specific. Depending on the terroir, the year and growing conditions, we can encounter nuances of broom flower, blackcurrant buds, or boxwood. We can also observe frequent citrus notes – lemon and grapefruit - as well as floral notes such as narcissus or jasmine. Some limestone soils often give the variety a mineral quality, namely gunflint.

Wines produced
Sauvignon Blanc makes dry white wines that are very elegant, lively, balanced and characteristic, to be enjoyed young. Recent research on Sauvignon's aromatic potential has enabled - through carbonic maceration - wines that have less vegetal flavor, characterized by a very nice balance between bite, smoothness and aromatic power. After late harvests, or with noble rot, Sauvignon can also be used in the production of top-quality sweet or liqueur-like wines.

Areas planted
Sauvignon is not as versatile as we might like to think. It clearly fares better in temperate areas, where it gives its most brilliant results. Before conquering the world, Sauvignon was grown in exceptional regions in France such as the Loire Valley, the Southwest down to the lower Tarn Valley, and in the area between La Rochelle and Angoulême. More recently, it has been planted at a large scale throughout the southwestern littoral between Nimes and the Spanish border, and even in the southeast between Avignon, Aix and Marseilles. The success of French Sauvignon on export markets has led wine growers to significantly expand production, increasing from 5,500 hectares in 1958 to 25,000 in 2006.

Budding and ripening
Sauvignon Blanc is a relatively late grape variety. It buds 7 days after Chasselas, the benchmark, and ripens two and a half weeks after it, making it a Period II variety.

Sauvignon Blanc is highly vigorous and tends to have excessive vegetative growth. This vigor must be controlled by planting the vine in mildly to moderately fertile terroirs, using low-productivity rootstocks and through appropriate pruning, which may be generous in the first years. Careful training helps to obtain a microclimate favorable for excellent ripening of the grapes.

Preferred soils
Sauvignon is a grape variety that likes limestone of all types. Hard chalk, marls and looser marine sediments all suit it equally well. Sauvignon’s qualities are expressed differently depending on the terroir; it is spicier and more floral when grown on gravelly terraces and more powerful and straightforward on deeper marl soils.

Ideal Climate
The best climate for Sauvignon is without a doubt one which enables slow ripening. These climates are found in cool areas, either continental zones like the central banks of the Loire, or more oceanic regions such as those near Aquitaine in the west. Nonetheless, the cooler soils of the area between Nimes and the Pyrenees, those furthest from the Mediterranean littoral, are also suitable for the production of elegant, high-quality wines.

Susceptibility to disease and pests
With its compact bunches and relatively thin skin, Sauvignon Blanc is highly susceptible to gray mold. It is also susceptible to wood diseases and oidium. It is, however, little susceptible to mildew.

Sauvignon Blanc is used only to produce wine.

Distinctive features
Sauvignon Blanc can be recognized by its young shoots, which are densely covered with flat-lying hairs, as well as by its young leaves, which are yellow or yellow with bronze patches. Sauvignon's shoots have green internodes, and its small to medium-sized leaves are orbicular, with five lobes. The petiolar sinus is slightly open, and the teeth of the lobes are medium length with convex sides. There is no anthocyanic pigmentation in the veins. The leaf blade is bubbled and sometimes even curly at the edges. On the underside of the leaf blade, there are sparse upright and flat-lying hairs. Sauvignon Blanc's berries are oblong and small, as are its bunches.

Clones marketed
The 20 approved Sauvignon clones (specifically named Sauvignon B) are numbers 107, 108, 159, 160, 161, 240, 241, 242, 297, 316, 317, 376, 377, 378, 379, 530, 531, 619, 905 and 906. Three conservatories including a total of around 400 clones were planted in Aquitaine and in the Loire Valley in 1993, 1994 and 2001.

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