International Grape Varieties: Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Chenin Blanc
When we talk about the "international" grape varieties, those we find across the USA, South America, Australia, and beyond, we are, even now, really talking about French varieties. This is why I used France as a jumping off point: Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Sauvignon Blanc were all cultivated on a large scale in France.
These varieties took on prominence across the "new world" due in no small part to French wines' pre-eminence in export markets, most particularly in the UK and the US. These were the styles most emerging wine-producing nations wanted to emulate.
Sauvignon Blanc is one of the parent grapes of Cabernet Sauvignon. It was first mentioned in 1783 in France as Sauvignon Fume in the area now producing Sancerre and Pouilly Fume. It has found its spiritual home away from home in New Zealand's Marlborough region.
This wine is textbook Marlborough Sauvignon, with lashings of gooseberry, citrus and lime and a lovely herbaceous, nettly finish: Great with seafood and asparagus. 5% of the wine is fermented in old French oak, which imparts no oak flavour but the slight oxidation results in a creamy subtlety on the palate. A classic match for Goat's cheese and any kind of seafood, most particularly fresh lobster.
Chardonnay is another grape that has found homes all over the world, but arguably nowhere as much as California whose Napa and Sonoma valleys make some of the world's best examples, commanding prices sometimes even higher than their Burgundian counterparts.
We have here a more modestly priced but still excellent example from De Loach. The Chardonnay here is only partially fermented in Oak barrels so is not as overpoweringly oaked as some California examples but the generous almost tropical fruit character betrays its origins from the Sunshine State.
Chenin Blanc is the last of the three mainstream grapes I want to look at today. Traditionally this makes the long-lived Whites of the Loire: Vouvray and Savennieres, but it also thrives in South Africa. It is found all over the world and in hot climates, its naturally high acidity helps it retain freshness, often being blended with colomard for light, fruity table wines. This example however from Post House is at the fuller-bodied end of the scale having also been matured in Oak barrels. Viscous and creamy with lashings of Barley sugar, citrus and honey, the wine is dry but has a sweetness on the finish and that bite of acidity that keeps it taut and fresh means this wine could easily be aged another decade to bring out more of the complex honeyed characteristics of this noble grape. A great wine for richer fish dishes such as grilled Dover sole or a creamy fish pie, this would also pair well with richer cheeses or Raclette.
I hope you enjoyed this look at three of the most popular international grape varieties. Cheers!