Wild White

What You Need to Know About Sauvignon Blanc

Spring is definitely in the air! And that means only one thing: white wine is just about ready for its close-up. South African wine drinkers love a white wine, with Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc leading the pack. In fact, Sauvignon Blanc accounts for 30% of all wine bottled in South Africa. But how much do we really know about our favourite summer crush? True, no one needs to read a thesis to enjoy wine, but having a better lay of the land only enriches the experience.

As with most French-sounding wines, Sauvignon Blanc indeed originated in France – Bordeaux to be exact – where the name translates to “wild” (sauvage) “white” (blanc).

The grape is particularly sensitive to terroir, meaning the wine is always a good representation of the area in which it is cultivated. In other words, the exact same varietal grown in a different region will have a vastly different flavour.

When grown in cooler climates, Sauvignon Blanc evokes taste descriptions like bell peppers and nettles, whereas a warm climate Sauvignon Blanc gives grapefruit, kiwi and granadilla flavours.

The great thing about this wine is that it’s unfussy. You can enjoy it wherever, whenever, however and with whomever you like. In South Africa, it’s made in only a few styles, and is usually released quite soon after being bottled. But that has nothing to do with its quality.

No matter what the Sauvignon Blanc – whether serious or more light-hearted – it’s best enjoyed chilled, between 11 °C and 12 °C. It’s also famously outdoorsy, and a great excuse for you to invest in a showstopping ice bucket. Decanting also brings out a Sauvignon Blanc’s best attributes, if you keep the decanter chilled. And when wondering what to serve with it, soft cheese is always a vibe.

Although highly uncommon for a wine as light, fresh and crisp as Sauvignon Blanc, the “wild white” takes well to being tamed. Although in South Africa we take the approach, “the fresher the better” to this winning white, it’s not a head of lettuce. Ageing Sauvignon Blanc is not at all unusual in the Loire Valley and Bordeaux, for instance, where aged versions invariably showcase a more refined taste, with more complex aromatics and flavours.

Interestingly, as it ages, it tends to keep its bright, tropical citrus notes, but over time, can develop notes like honeycomb and toasted brioche. The acid is often brought into balance more, and when aged in oak, brings an added creamy texture.

Ageing Sauvignon Blanc, however, is still something only serious winos are interested in, but it’s so worth it. Most Sauvignon Blancs are sold young, so you have to do the ageing yourself. When aged over a period of five-to-seven years, it could result in the difference between flavours of fresh peach and peach tart, or lemon peel and lemon curd, adding a deeper, richer flavour on the whole.


Only a small portion of this ultra-refined Sauvignon Blanc is oak matured and typically spends a long time on the lees, which means it spends a good amount of quality time in the cellar after bottling, before it heads out into the world. This means it has a bit more structure and body than most Sauvignon Blancs. The small component of Semillon also means that it can easily be aged for two-to-five years.