When buying Sauvignon Blanc, the most common wines that perhaps come to mind are Sancerre from France or perhaps New Zealand. But when you pick up a bottle of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, what can you expect to find?
Sauvignon Blanc, one of the classic grape varieties and certainly one of my favourite tipples during long summer days when we eat an abundance of seafood, and almost as much salad until our ears and teeth start taking on rabbit-like features. So you are looking in your local wine shop and you see Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, how will this compare to other wine regions and what should you look for on the bottle?
Today Chilean Sauvignon Blanc is grown mainly in the cooler more coastal areas of Chile, including San Antonio, Leyda and the furthest west part of Casablanca. In addition, you can find them in coastal areas of Colchagua further south, or Costa Aconcagua further north as well Zappallar and Limari, however the main point is that nearness to the coast is essential.
Why near the coast? Despite Chile often being referred to as a Mediterranean climate, anyone who has been to the Pacific Coast of Chile would probably dispute that! On the coast, the mornings are generally quite foggy, there is a cold Pacific wind blowing and the water never reaches much above 16 ºC! In the summer, the fog general burns off around 1pm allowing us some time to soak up some beautiful warm sunshine for a few hours. The cool coastal areas are perfect for Sauvignon Blanc as the cooler temperatures and partial clouds help the grapes mature more slowly, developing more complex flavours and maintain a high acidity. With all Sauvignon Blanc we want to maintain a high acidity, this is the tartness that makes the sides of your mouth water and gives a freshness to a wine. But making Sauvignon Blanc is quite an art, we want mature grapes but not overripe, we need acidity and not too much alcohol. Here is what we look for in the glass.
What does it look like in the glass?
Usually a pale lemon colour, with sometimes some green tinges.
Aroma profile: While New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc can be quite overpowering when you take a sniff, with gooseberries, grapefruit, and some tropical aromas, Chilean Sauvignon is a little more subtle but with quite a similar aroma profile, with the addition of citrus lime and grass/herbal notes.
In the mouth: When I taste New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, I often expect that it is going to be just as overpowering as the aroma on the nose,but instead its can be quite delicate and restrained. Chilean Sauvignon Blanc I think delivers more of what you detect on the nose, and follows through with a lovely lively acidity and often a slight zestiness – in particular from the Leyda valley where I think the saltiness from the sea can defintely be felt.
In many ways, Chilean Sauvignon Blanc is quite like New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc but perhaps a little more subtle and restrained. Although these are only general impressions and of course there are many exceptions to this. One particular exception to this in Chile is Casa Marin’s Sauvignon Blanc Cipreses in Lo Abarca, San Antonio. This particularly beautiful Sauvignon Blanc sits on its own with more a European style of flavour concentration, acidity and elegance that its really quite unique.
Five Chilean Sauvignon Blancs you must try:
Written by Jane Nisbet Huseby, Chief Editor, Wine Source Chile