Wine varietals and styles

Sauvignon blanc

There’s more than meets the eye when it comes to this classic white wine.

Sauvignon blanc is a noble white variety born in the Loire Valley region of France, and its name loosely translates to “wild white”. It’s a parent of cabernet sauvignon, and it also has ties to the white varieties chenin blanc and savagnin. Despite its European origins and centuries-old history, dating back to the 1500s, you probably know it best as the fresh, fruity white wine that’s had monumental success in the New World.

Go to section: Sauvignon blanc characteristics | The history of sauvignon blanc | Australian sauvignon blanc regions | International sauvignon blanc styles | Sauvignon blanc food pairings

    Sauvignon blanc wine characteristics


    Sauvignon blanc is celebrated for its lifted aromas, vivid fruit flavours, and distinctive herbal and mineral characters. While it’s well known for crisp, refreshing wines that run the gamut from bright and zesty to ripe and tropical, winemaking approaches like oak ageing, wild fermentation and lees stirring can create richer, more textural styles.

    sauvignon blanc characteristics

    The history of sauvignon blanc wine


    Sauvignon blanc originated in France’s Loire Valley in the 16th century, with its synonym “fiers” recorded as early as 1534. This region is its official birthplace, contrary to some confusion about it being Bordeaux. The story of sauvignon blanc in Australia was greatly affected by the movement in New Zealand, with the success of Marlborough sauvignon blanc in the early 2000s influencing the preferences of Australian drinkers and leading to an increase in plantings.

    Australian sauvignon blanc regions

    Many local winemakers from Australia utilise techniques originating from France to make sauvignon blanc.
    australian semillon sauvignon blanc regions
  • Margaret River


  • This Western Australian region champions sauvignon blanc like few others. Margaret River wineries often blend sauvignon blanc with semillon to achieve a bright, citrusy, Bordeaux-inspired white. 

  • Adelaide Hills


  • Sauvignon blanc is a prominent white grape in the Adelaide Hills of South Australia, with the cooler climate of this region providing the right environment for aromatic, full-flavoured styles.

  • Orange


  • The high-altitude vineyards of Orange in New South Wales are ideal for sauvignon blanc. Wines from here typically have pronounced tropical notes plus herbaceous characters.

    Tasmania


    Tasmania produces a fresh, citrus-driven style of sauvignon blanc. Some wineries have also adopted the French approach of barrel fermentation.

    International sauvignon blanc styles


    French sauvignon blanc in loire valley
  • New Zealand


  • New Zealand is a world leader in sauvignon blanc. The Marlborough region holds the lion’s share of plantings, with its environment conducive to producing flavoursome grapes and its resulting wines extremely popular. Other notable areas include Hawke’s Bay, Martinborough and Nelson.

  • France


  • The Loire Valley’s Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé use the sauvignon blanc grape. James Halliday says of these styles: “Sancerre is a little livelier and more precise, Pouilly-Fumé sturdier and more complex... they’re the ultimate food-friendly white wines at an affordable price.” Bordeaux whites also include sauvignon blanc as a smaller component of typically semillon-dominant blends.

  • South Africa


  • The cooler regions of the Elgin Valley, Walker Bay, Elim and Hermanus provide excellent environments for sauvignon blanc production.

  • Chile


  • The pure water of the Andes, gravelly soil and dry climate are outstanding for sauvignon blanc. According to James, Chilean styles appeal for their price and softness of flavours and are best enjoyed within 12 months of vintage.

    Sauvignon blanc food pairings


    sauvignon blanc best paired with fish and seafood In general, as a white wine, sauvignon blanc pairs well with tangy, herby, briny and earthy flavours. Goat’s cheese is a classic pairing with sauvignon blanc, as are oysters and other shellfish. For mains, try crisp green vegetables, delicate white fish, and salads starring citrusy dressings and herbs.

    *All information and quotes within this guide are from Varietal Wines by James Halliday.