Sauvignon Blanc : France Vs New Zealand

  • By François Chartier
  • 11 Jan 2021
  • 5 MIN
  • Level 201
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Close up on a Sauvignon Blanc Grape - Credit : CHARTIER "Créateur d'harmonies"

To capture the essence of Sauvignon Blanc, one must travel to the Loire, more precisely in its preferred terroirs, i.e. the appellations of Sancerre, Pouilly-Fumé, and Menetou-Salon.

Being regularly able to compete with the best of the Loire, Bordeaux whites are not to be outdone, at least those made from 100 % Sauvignon Blanc (because they are often blended with the fatter Sémillon Blanc and the ultra-fragrant Muscadelle).

And what does the quintessential “blanc fumé”, as it is called in Pouilly, resemble?

Given the proper conditions, this grape variety produces dry whites that can exude striking anise notes of fresh mint and basil (from anise-based molecules) and hints of boxwood, passion fruit, and pink grapefruit (from molecules of thiols). It is crisp and refreshing, silky and fresh, full and textured on the palate. The very best of these wines have vitality and verticality, and almost mythical minerality.

Interesting wines for a happy hour and masterpieces at the table, these wines are easily digestible and easy to drink.

They should be accompanied by light dishes, which can be dominated by fresh acidity and aromatic herbs.

These wines pair perfectly with dishes containing dill, star anise, basil, caraway, chervil, fennel, mint and parsley, celery, carrot, and parsnip.

Forget very fatty meats and fish served in creamy sauces. Instead, opt for iodized shellfish and crustaceans as well as delicate fish. 

All of these characteristics make French Sauvignon Blanc wines slightly different from New Zealand Sauvignons, which, in some cases, can support slightly richer dishes and fruit-based sauces.

With the introduction of Sauvignon Blanc in New World countries, the resulting wines’ fragrances have been greatly enhanced, with a satiny texture in the mouth.

A New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc can be very exotic, expressing itself through notes of kiwi, pineapple, and lime. It can show a fuller and crispier mouthfeel, juicier and refreshing, while at the same time being round and flavourful, almost sweet (without sugar), and instantly charming!

The spirit and the great verticality that is the trademark of this aromatic grape variety shines among the best of these New Zealand wines.

Bordeaux and Loire

As a first French example, serve an expressive Premières-Côtes-de-Blaye, almost biting and crispy, with an acidity that awakens the taste buds , signalling “easy-to-drink”, with refreshing palatability. It sets the tone when served with classic snail canapés with parsley and butter and mussels marinara prepared “my way” with plenty of fresh parsley, fresh mint, lemon, and parsley.

To plunge into the heart of Sauvignon Blanc's favourite zone, opt for a wine from Menetou-Salon, an appellation neighbouring Sancerre. You will find pure, refined wines, with just the right notes of anise. This wine is straightforward, refreshing and very expressive on the palate, revealing subtle and airy notes of mint, grapefruit, boxwood, and passion fruit.

More robust than the first Bordeaux, these wines will stay the course with slightly more textured dishes such as smoked salmon and dill canapés, mini shrimp skewers with basil, and pan-fried trout fillet with puréed celeriac.

Finally, to get closer to the discovery of the Holy Grail, serve one of Sancerre's big names, which are longer, more mineralizing and denser than their neighbors from Pouilly-Fumé or Menetou-Salon.

You can present your guests with marinated salmon rosettes on raw fennel salad and pink grapefruit vinaigrette, along with thin crêpes with asparagus and smoked salmon.

New Zealand 

When it comes to Sauvignon Blancs from New Zealand, choose an exotic one that is as expressive as possible, exhaling notes of blackcurrant blossom, kiwi, pineapple, and lime, with a full and crispy mouthfeel, juicy, refreshing, yet round and almost sweet (sugar-free). Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc demonstrates these qualities with panache. It will be a hit with appetizers, such as shrimp and asparagus stuffed avocados and chervil-flavoured salmon fusilli. 

If you opt for a more substantial version aged in oak, you will need something heartier. Try pairing the wine with pan-fried scallops in celery cream sauce, accompanied by smoked eel or chicken and shrimp skewers with mustard and honey sauce.

These two dishes are more intense and will go wonderfully well with the wine's more full-bodied profile and less exotic flavours, with notes more reminiscent of white flesh fruits and grilled dried fruits; these notes will also be in harmony with the wine’s integrated woodiness, expansive flavours and fresh acidity.

Also, don't miss the opportunity to create great cheese harmonies at appetizer time since Sauvignon is excellent with certain cheeses. 

Choose a platter of goat cheeses with a bit of creaminess, such as a young Pouligny-Saint-Pierre or Sainte-Maure (semi-dry), or pick a tasty Serra da estral Casa Matias (Portugal). The freshness and the full body of New Zealand wines will make for a perfect mouthful!

Close up on a Sauvignon Blanc Grape - Credit : CHARTIER "Créateur d'harmonies"