Sauvignon Gris: What is it?If you’ve never heard of it, worry not. Sauvignon Gris is a wine grape variety, and a somewhat obscure one at that. As the name might suggest, it is a mutation of the better-known Sauvignon Blanc. It tends to produce a fuller-bodied wine than Sauvignon Blanc, with generous mango and melon fruit flavours as well as an unmistakable herbaceous character typical of Sauvignon Blanc. Its berries are pink in colour - unusual for a white wine grape - and they ripen early. This means that it is usually among the very first grape varieties picked during harvest - if you can find a vineyard that grows it, that is.
Sauvignon Gris: Where does it grow?Its home is in Bordeaux, France, but even there it is not so common. Producers of dry white Bordeaux wines, the best of which tend to come from the Graves and Pessac-Léognan appellations, tend to favour Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon instead. It is estimated that Sauvignon Gris makes up just 2% of the white wine grapes planted in Bordeaux. Some major red Bordeaux wine estates like Château Haut-Brion, Château Palmer and Château Valandraud also produce white wines that have some Sauvignon Gris in their blends. Small amounts can also be found in the Loire Valley in France as well as in Chile, Australia, New Zealand and the USA.
Where to buy Sauvignon GrisIt is seriously difficult to find a bottle of Sauvignon Gris anywhere, as it accounts for such a small percentage of overall vineyard space, and in the case of France it is at best used as a blending grape. Any 100% varietal Sauvignon Gris is likely to be quite expensive, and perhaps not all that great anyway. The white wines of the big Bordeaux châteaux mentioned above are top quality, but they’re difficult to find, will cost quite a lot, and in any event Sauvignon Gris is simply a part of their overall blends.
What to drink instead of Sauvignon GrisInstead of travelling the earth looking for a Sauvignon Gris wine, we recommend looking instead to its spiritual home of Bordeaux. White Bordeaux, and in particular the fine white Bordeaux of the Graves and Pessac-Léognan regions, are among the world’s best white wines. That’s a start. Also, the top estates have been around for centuries, and know their vineyards inside out. If a winery, such as Château Malartic-Lagravière, has decided to focus on other grapes instead of Sauvignon Gris, then it’s worth considering that maybe the wine is better as a Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon blend, that the Sauvignon Gris was either superflouous or took away from the overall quality of the wine. See for yourself with Château Malartic-Lagravière Blanc 2005, the estate’s white from the outstanding 2005 vintage. There is no Sauvignon Gris in sight, yet this is a superb white with a 92-point seal of approval from Robert Parker himself.