• Emily

"No One Drinks Sauvignon Blanc"

One of my colleagues said this to me a couple months ago as we were heading to an event, and the sentence has stuck with me since; I found it striking because it is categorically untrue.

In 2015, The Telegraph ran an article touting Sauvignon Blanc as the UK’s favourite grape, using data from 40,000 Laithwaites customers. Marlborough took off in the US as well, largely thanks to Sauvignon Blanc. Even several years later, in 2018, New Zealand, (driven largely by Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir) was the only country to grow in sales volume. Sancerre has always had a large following, and Bordeaux has been growing Sauvignon Blanc for a very long time and is possibly the birthplace of the grape.

I knew exactly what she meant: the type of client that buys wine from fine wine merchants are not typically the kind of client that buy Sauvignon Blanc. It’s not a wine often designed to be cellared. It’s more cheerful than it is sexy. It’s lumped together with Pinot Grigio and Rose and called “wine for moms”. It’s certainly not a serious wine, and it is not always a subtle wine.

Yet we sell cases and cases of it to restaurants. Those restaurants are presumably selling it to customers who are happy to drink it, and these restaurants are often trendy and high-end restaurants. So where does this idea come from that nobody drinks Sauvignon Blanc?

Is is simply that these aren’t collector wines? I could imagine that Sauvignon Blanc occupies a price point where wine connoisseurs, who are accustomed to spending a certain amount per case, would find it a cheap-and-cheerful wine to drink rather than cellar. Although, Jamie Goode makes a case that we shouldn’t necessarily dismiss aged Sauvignon Blanc and, while it has a reputation of being cheap, that isn’t always the case.

Is it possible that we’re not marketing the right bottles of Sauvignon Blanc to these types of customers? Does it have to be one or the other? I find it impractical to write off an entire grape - let alone one the most popular grapes - as something your customers won’t buy.

I also have strong feelings about dismissing wine trends when they don’t apply to high-end buyers. Those customers might bring in high-value sales, but I don’t think you can ignore a larger subset of wine drinkers as being wrong in their taste in wine. You can potentially say that no wine collectors buy Sauvignon Blanc (although I suspect that is also untrue), but I don’t think that you can claim nobody buys Sauvignon Blanc because only one subset of wine buyers turns up their noses at it.

I certainly don’t have all the answers, and it’s quite possible that Sauvignon Blanc will be relegated to supermarkets and wine-by-the-glass offerings in restaurants, but I suspect that we are letting it down by categorically dismissing it.

Thoughts? Best Sauvignon Blanc you’ve ever had? Worst? Feel free to disagree in the comments!

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