Origin: France, the Loire. This variety was introduced in the Steiermark in the 19th century by Archduke Johann. At that time, it was known as Muskat-Sylvaner.
Parentage: Natural crossing of Traminer and Chenin blanc.The former name (Muskat-Sylvaner) is no longer permitted for use, as it is misleading. There is no relation to any muscat or sylvaner varieties and, moreover, the Sauvignon blanc has no muscat aroma.
Vineyard area: 1,248 ha, 2.7 %
In Austria, growth trippled between 1999 and 2009 and continues to increase in Niederösterreich, Burgenland and the Steiermark.
Important ampelographic features
Leaf: circular with five lobes, corrugated edge, round arch-shaped teeth, very hairy underside
Grape cluster: small, dense grapes; cylindrical; shouldered; round to oval greenish-yellow berries with spicy, herbal-grassy flavours
Ripening time: mid- to late-season
Significance, conditions: In the Steiermark as well as in Burgenland and Niederösterreich, outstanding top-quality wines with great ageing potential are produced.This variety needs good sites, but with rather meager soils. It is a robust variety that requires leaf maintenance. The methoxypyrazine (pepper and green pepper aromas) and marcaptane (scents of grapefruit, passion fruit and black currants) are very photosensitive and can be reduced significantly by measures such as defoliation around the grape zone. These photosensitive aromas are responsible for the characteristic smell and taste. The thicker the leaves are during the ripening period, the higher is the methoxypyrazine content. The vintner can influence this content according to the time of partial defoliation - if a green vegetative type of the variety is wanted or not. Sauvignon blanc is highly prone to peronospora and oidium.
Wine: Grown worldwide, this variety has a characteristic bouquet, which can be intrusively unripe and grassy when the grapes are not fully ripe. When the grapes have good ripeness, they develop complex aromas of black currants, gooseberries and tropical fruit. The wines develop – according to the level of maturity – from discreet to very complex. The complex versions have wonderful ageing potential especially from malolactic fermentation and barrique maturation. When the grapes are very ripe, the complex aromas retreat and a powerful, spicy wine unfolds.