We’re all familiar with Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc, but there are a number of other grape varieties with the word ‘Sauvignon’, or something very similar, in their names:
Savagnin, for example, is native to the Jura in eastern France and is used for the strange, sherry-like Vin Jaune – about as far from a Sauvignon Blanc as you can find. For something rather closer in style, look to Sauvignonasse (also known as Sauvignon Vert and, in Italy, as Friulano). This used to be grown widely in Bordeaux but, today, you’re more likely to come across it in Chile or Argentina. Easily confused with Sauvignon Blanc in the vineyard, it rarely has as much aromatic character when vinified and often becomes quite flabby with high levels of alcohol. Watch out for bottles labelled simply ‘Sauvignon’ without the word ‘Blanc’ following, particularly cheaper examples; they usually signify, at best, a blend of the two varieties and hardly ever make exciting drinking.
Surprisingly, despite the similar name and appearance, Sauvignonasse is not thought to be related to Sauvignon Blanc, but there is an interesting and most under-rated variety that certainly is: Sauvignon Gris. Also known as Sauvignon Rose due to its distinctive pink-coloured skin, it’s originally from France (Bordeaux and the Loire) but has found its way (in small quantities) to South America and New Zealand where it is made into some highly drinkable wines.
One of my favourite examples is from Leyda’s Kadun vineyard in Chile (Great Western Wine, £11.95). This is to the south of the capital, Valparaiso, and planted in the 1990s just 12km (8 miles) from the coast to take advantage of the cooling ocean breezes. These are ideal conditions for aromatic varieties like Sauvignon Gris (there’s plenty of Blanc planted there, too) and this wine is wonderfully crisp and intense with delicious pink grapefruit flavours and a long spicy finish. Yes, there’s some similarity to Sauvignon Blanc, but this is distinctive enough to have both on your wine rack.