Producer: Vina Millaman
Region/Appellation: Central Valley – Chile
Country Hierarchy: Chile
Grape/Blend: Sauvignon Blanc
Food Suggestion: Salads and Green Vegetables
Wine Style: White – Green and Flinty
Central Valley – Chile Wine
The Central Valley (El Valle Central) of Chile is one of the most important wine-producing areas in South America in terms of volume. It is also one of the largest wine regions, stretching from the Maipo Valley (just south of Santiago) to the southern end of the Maule Valley. This is a distance of almost 250 miles (400km) and covers a number of climate types. The Central Valley wine region is easily (and often) confused with the geological Central Valley, which runs north–south for more than 620 miles (1000km) between the Pacific Coastal Ranges and the lower Andes.
Vineyard workers during harvest © Matt Wilson/Wines of Chile
A wide variety of wine styles and quality can be found in this large area, from many different terroirs. They range from the fashionable (and relatively expensive) Bordeaux-style wines produced in northern Maipo, to the older, more-established vineyards of Maule; from the coastal plains of western Colchagua to the Andean foothills of Puente Alto. With experimentation so popular in the modern wine world, however, it is the newer, cooler-climate areas which are receiving most attention, with the emphasis on the Andean foothills and the river valleys tempered by the cooling effects of the Pacific Ocean.
The Central Valley is also home to a variety of grapes, but plantings are dominated by the internationally popular Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Chile’s ‘icon’ grape, Carmenere, is also of importance here, just as Malbec is to Mendoza, on the other side of the Andes. The cooler corners of the Central Valley are being increasingly developed, as winemakers experiment with varieties such as Viognier, Rieslingand even Gewurztraminer.
Because the area covered is so large and the terrain so varied, the name ‘Central Valley’ on a label is unlikely to communicate anything specific about the style of wine in the bottle. Also, with a number of independently recognized sub-regions now in place (such as Colchagua and Cachapoal), most wines of any quality are able to specify their sub-region of origin rather than the generic Central Valley. As a result, the Central Valley title is mostly used for mass-produced wines made from a range of sources.
Sauvignon Blanc is a white-wine grape from western France, now successfully grown in emerging and established wine regions all over the world. While the grape may be more readily associated with the Loire Valley (for its pivotal role in Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé), it is more likely to have originated from Bordeaux, where it is typically blended with Semillon.
In the late 20th Century, a new region began to gain a reputation as one of the great Sauvignon Blanc regions of the world: Marlborough, at the northern tip of New Zealand’s South Island. The rapid development of the Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is one of the most dramatic events in the world of wine. The intense and readily accessible flavor of a classic Marlborough “Savvy” (as it is colloquially known in that part of the world) has captured a vast market around the globe, from the United States and Canada to the UK and northern Europe, Australia and Japan. In 2015, Sauvignon Blanc accounted for around 85% of New Zealand’s wine exports.
Sauvignon Blanc Grapes
Outside France and New Zealand, the variety has been relatively successful in New World regions such as California, Chile (particularly the Casablanca and San Antonio valleys) and South Africa. Even in Australia the variety can thrive in the cooler coastal areas of the south. In Europe, the cool, sunny sub-alpine slopes of Alto Adige and Friuli in northern Italy produce high quality Sauvignon Blanc, which is used in blends with native varieties like Friulano or on its own.
The key selling point of Sauvignon Blanc is its straightforwardness – the flavors are rarely hidden away in the background. Also, there is a particularly close correlation between the perceived flavors and their descriptors, making Sauvignon Blanc an ideal wine with which to begin wine-tasting lessons.
Classic Sauvignon Blanc aromas range from grass, nettles, blackcurrant leaf and asparagus to green apples and gooseberries, and to more esoteric notes such as cats’ pee and gunflint. The latter is a sign of a wine from Pouilly-Fumé, where the struck flint aroma (known there as pierre à fusil) derives from the presence of high levels of chert in the local limestone soils. This effect is so pronounced and consistent that Sauvignon Blanc was once widely known as Blanc Fumé in this part of the Loire.
When combined with Semillon, as it is in most Bordeaux blanc, Sauvignon is found in some of the world’s finest dry white wines. Although generally a minor component, it also plays an important role alongside Semillon in Sauternes, the closest the variety gets to the top end of the wine spectrum. Since the 1970s, this pairing has become the staple white blend in Australia’s Margaret River region.
A relatively robust, vigorous vine (which explains its popularity with viticulturists), Sauvignon adapts readily to all kinds of growing environments. Because it ripens early, it can be grown in relatively cool climates – its Loire homeland being the most obvious example – while its naturally high acidity allows it to retain a level of freshness even in warmer areas. However, to achieve the true, forward zing that best characterizes Sauvignon Blanc wine, a cooler terroir is needed, ideally with persistent bright sunshine and a dry harvest period.
Strange as it may seem, bright, green Sauvignon Blanc has much in common with dark-skinned Cabernet Sauvignon, and not just in the name and region of origin. The bell-pepper and asparagus flavors detectable in wines of both types are down to the methoxypyrazine flavor compounds in both varieties. Also, they are both vigorous growers that produce generous yields and are inclined to produce overly dense canopies in cooler climates. The two varieties are, in fact, genetically related; Sauvignon became the parent to Cabernet Sauvignon after a natural crossing with Cabernet Franc in an 18th-Century Bordeaux vineyard. Both parent and offspring have now become two of the most widely planted vine varieties in the world.
Synonyms include: Fumé Blanc, Sauvignon Bianco, Muskat-Silvaner, Muskat-Sylvaner.
Food matches for Sauvignon Blanc include:
- Broad bean and chèvre salad
- Grilled asparagus with hollandaise
- Bluff oysters with dill and lime vinaigrette
Enjoy this video of three top wine writers discussing Sauvignon Blanc…
(sources : wine-searcher)