Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc changed the world map. When David Hohnen tasted his first Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc in 1983, it sparked a vision for a new style of wine. He founded Cloudy Bay a year later, and in 1986, he and winemaker Kevin Judd brought Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc to the world.
Sauvignon Blanc was our first wine and has remained our signature variety ever since. Renowned for its crisp and vibrant flavours, Sauvignon Blanc - and especially Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc - has gained popularity as one of the world's most beloved white wines. Despite its popularity, Sauvignon Blanc isn’t especially well understood, and that’s why we’ve made The Cloudy Bay Guide to Sauvignon Blanc.
This comprehensive guide delves into the depths of this extraordinary wine, covering everything from its history, pronunciation, taste and styles to serving techniques, food pairings, and proper storage methods. Let’s get to know Sauvignon Blanc a little better.
So what is Sauvignon Blanc, anyway? Sauvignon Blanc is a green-skinned grape variety used to make a range of aromatic white wines. Known for its refreshing characters and crisp acidity, Sauvignon Blanc is especially suited to summer and fresh seafood.
Sauvignon Blanc began as a vigorous indigenous grape in South West France, and its leaves resemble those of wild grapevines. The word "Sauvignon" derives from the French term for "wild" or "savage," while “blanc" translates to "white" in English.
Sauvignon Blanc is a famously vigorous grower, thriving in soils many other crops would find too difficult. Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is distinctive in large part because our rocky, free-draining soils let the vines develop intense fruit flavours.
New Zealand’s prime spot on the world wine map is largely thanks to Sauvignon Blanc. The 1996 Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc was the first New Zealand wine ranked in the Wine Spectator Top Wines of the World list.
This set the pace, expanding the map and announcing New Zealand wines on the world stage.
And with good reason, because New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is a very special wine indeed. Intense aromatics, vibrant acidity, and distinct flavours of tropical fruits, citrus, and grassy notes are the hallmarks of New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs.
It should really come as no surprise that these wines (and particularly Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc) continue to pick up accolades and earn new fans every vintage.
The moment David Hohnen’s nose entered a glass of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc in 1983 is the moment the wine world changed forever. Captivated by intense aromatics of crackling capsicum, freshly-cut grasses and peeled lychee, he began a journey that changed the world wine map - and made Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc a hero. These aromatics created an effect David coined after watching critics assess his early vintages:
“I always called it the eyebrow factor,” says David. “You look around the room, and as soon as they put their nose in the glass of Cloudy Bay, their eyebrows went north.”
Traditionally, Sauvignon Blanc was an austere, uninspiring variety. Even the best of Sancerre were fairly demure, and remain restrained today (but are worth seeking out as a comparison). By contrast, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc captured global attention with its electrifying, unforgettable aromas and flavour. This style–pioneered by Cloudy Bay– is famously zesty, fresh and vibrant. Lime, lemongrass and juicy stone fruit mingle and meld into a mouthwatering palate, balanced by subtle mineral notes and a long finish.
Of course, Sauvignon Blanc offers a diverse range of flavours depending on its origin and winemaking techniques. Common descriptors include citrus fruits like lemon and lime, tropical fruits such as passion fruit and pineapple, herbaceous notes of green capsicum or freshly cut grass, and mineral undertones. Sauvignon Blanc’s inherent refreshing acidity contributes to its lively and crisp mouthfeel.
But Sauvignon Blanc has hidden depths. Cloudy Bay Te Koko Sauvignon Blanc is a sophisticated, unique example of the variety, fermented with wild yeasts and aged in French oak barrels. It’s Sauvignon Blanc as you might never have tasted it before: weighty, textural and savoury, with ripe fruit characteristics. It’s a Sauvignon Blanc for people who want something out of the ordinary.
How do you pronounce ‘Sauvignon Blanc’?
While in many countries (and especially New Zealand and Australia) you might hear “Sav Blonk” or even just “Sav”, the correct way to pronounce Sauvignon Blanc is:
You'll get bonus points for mastering the French pronunciation. For example, many English speakers say the hard ‘C’ in ‘blanc’ but it's a subtle sound, almost silent. Give it a try.
What’s a good food pairing with Sauvignon Blanc?
Sauvignon Blanc is an excellent companion for an enormous variety of dishes and cuisines.
Fresh seafood, such as oysters, shrimp, or grilled fish complement the wine's crispness. It even goes with sushi, which is very rare to find in a wine. Sauvignon Blanc also pairs beautifully with goat cheese, salads, asparagus, and lighter fare with herbal or citrus-based sauces.
The Cloudy Bay rule of thumb is that if it goes with lemon, it goes with Sauvignon Blanc.
DISCOVER A NEW RECIPE TO PAIR WITH SAUVIGNON BLANC
Is Sauvignon Blanc dry or sweet?
Sauvignon Blanc is generally produced as a dry wine, meaning it contains minimal residual sugar. The dry style enhances the wine's refreshing nature, allowing the vibrant fruit flavours and acidity to shine. However, some winemakers may produce off-dry or slightly sweet Sauvignon Blancs to balance the acidity.
Sauvignon Blanc is also a component in the dessert wine Sauternes, which is named for the region that made it famous.
How to serve Sauvignon Blanc?
Temperature is key for Sauvignon Blanc. To fully appreciate the flavours and aromas, aim for a serving temperature between 7-10°C (about 45-50°F). Use stemmed, tulip-shaped wine glasses to concentrate the aromas and allow for swirling.
How to drink Sauvignon Blanc?
Any way you like!
Of course, should you feel like getting to know your wine better, we have a few tips. When it comes to drinking Sauvignon Blanc, take a moment to observe the wine's colour, clarity, and intensity. Give the glass a gentle swirl to release the aromas, and try putting your nose right in the glass: you’ll be greeted by those captivating aromas that launched a whole new style of wine.
Then, take small sips, allowing the wine to coat your palate. Take note of the wine's acidity, flavours, and overall balance, appreciating its refreshing and vibrant nature. Perhaps top up the glass a little to keep discovering and enjoying new layers of flavour.
Inspired to host your own event?
How to store Sauvignon Blanc?
While many Sauvignon Blancs are made to be enjoyed immediately, we at Cloudy Bay like to store away a few bottles to let them develop with time. Screw-cap enclosures mean you don’t need to worry about ‘corked’ wine, but it’s still best to store your bottles properly.
Keep the bottles in a cool, dark place, away from direct sunlight and extreme temperature fluctuations. Storing wines horizontally is traditional because it prevents corks from drying out, but this isn’t an issue with screwcaps (the most common closure for Sauvignon Blanc).
Sauvignon Blanc, with its captivating aromas, vibrant flavours and refreshing acidity has secured a prominent place among wine enthusiasts worldwide. Whether you opt for the zesty New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs or the more traditional expressions from other regions, there a Sauvignon Blanc to suit every palate. It’s simple to serve, phenomenal with food, delightful to drink and easy to enjoy. So, let’s raise our glasses and savour Sauvignon Blanc in all its glory.