When discussing “California” and “wine,” it’s obvious that Cabernet Sauvignon will immediately come to mind. In Napa Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon might be considered “premier,” but there are other wines that can compete with it: specifically, the Sauvignon Blanc.
Sauvignon Blanc’s Origins
Sauvignon Blanc is a white wine that offers stunning style and nigh-unprecedented complexity in its flavor and taste. It was elevated in the Napa Valley by Robert Mondavi back in 1966—inspired by French wines, he wanted to emulate Sauvignon Blancs from the Loire Valley region. As part of his discovery, he chased tastes of “smoke,” “herbs,” and “tang” (which are all signature elements of Loire Valley white wines). From there, the formula evolved and changed to its current configuration, which offers a grassy element alongside the others.
Having said that, Sauvignon Blanc is considered an easier wine to drink. Many believe that it’s a straightforward wine due to its “simpler” tasting notes. But wasn’t it just mentioned that Sauvignon Blanc has complex tasting notes? Indeed.
This contradiction stems from the early period of Sauvignon Blanc creation until the 2000s. During this period, Sauvignon Blanc gained a reputation as a less-aggressive, easy-drinking wine. It was specifically crafted to be such—it was meant to be an “easy” wine for people with “simple” tastes to enjoy. Its reputation as a “one-dimensional” wine grew to prominence then.
Pushing the Boundaries of Sauvignon Blanc
Luckily, this simplistic, straightforward approach to Sauvignon Blanc didn’t remain the case long after the 2000s began. Wine producers in Napa Valley began to tweak their Sauvignon Blanc formulas to see what might happen if they pushed the limits and started treating the fruit differently in the cellars.
Two winemakers are credited with evolving Sauvignon Blanc: Tom Gamble and Don Kelleher. They recognized that Sauvignon Blanc had a negative reputation and they strived to change that. One of the main things they changed was the fermentation process and location, which resulted in methods that had two-thirds of the wine become barrel-fermented, which helped to add depth and texture to the wine.
Nowadays, when people are excited by Napa Valley’s Sauvignon Blanc, they are mostly discussing the wines that came to prominence after the 2000s.
Where Can Sauvignon Blanc Go From Here?
Sauvignon Blanc is on the up and up, and it seems to be in little danger of hitting a plateau in the future. For all the Sauvignon Blanc enthusiasts, this means that it should be delicious for years to come.
With Napa Valley at the forefront of Sauvignon Blanc’s evolution, this wine will likely continue to evolve to produce more “complex” wine tastes. It may still have a ways to go until it reaches the popularity of Cabernet Sauvignon, but it’s making progress toward that result.
Sauvignon Blanc’s reputation is currently on a complex journey that is reminiscent of its tasting notes. So long as it continues in this vein, it will eventually lose its reputation as a cheap, simple wine. If you are looking for one of the most beautiful wineries in Napa, be sure to check out ELLMAN. ELLMAN is a family-owned winery in Napa, specializing in elegant wines made by Andy Erickson. On the rise as one of the top wineries in Napa, you can even try all their wines at one of their Downtown Napa tasting rooms. ELLMAN is all about their family and their wine - check out their current wines available here or check out this page to learn how to become a member today.
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