One of the fastest growing and most popular grape varieties, especially in the New World, Sauvignon Blanc is known for its very obvious aromas that range from passion fruit to boxwood. The variety is fairly easy to recognize with its grassy notes, the green hues in its colour and above all its clean, zesty acidity. With age and with ripeness the crisp fruit (which has also been described as green pepper, nettle, gooseberry and lime blossom) can become rounder with notes of honeydew melon, pear and linden.
The grape is believed to have originated in the Loire, where it still finds its purest expression. In the last 20 years, the variety has gone through a revolution since Denis Dubourdieu, the brilliant wine researcher and professor in Bordeaux identified the precursors of its aromas, which are sulphur compounds that become volatile when exposed to oxygen, called thiols. To preserve these thiols the grapes are usually macerated on the skins for a short period at cold temperatures before being fermented in stainless steel tanks.
The most obviously fruity, aromatic Sauvignon Blancs come from New Zealand where the intense box tree and passion fruit notes are unmistakable. In France, the wines are more restrained with mineral notes mixing with grassy, fruity tones. In Bordeaux the grapes are picked at full maturity, vinified in barrels and often blended with honey-scented Semillon to provide the necessary flesh before being aged in oak; these wines are capable of long age. Apart from New Zealand, the variety has had great success throughout the New World where it is prized for its intense aromas and juicy, fruity acidity.
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