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Sean McBride
April 22, 2022 | Letters from Napa Valley, Library Releases | Sean McBride

What is Barrel Aged Sauvignon Blanc?

Stimulating and crisp, Sauvignon Blanc evokes the fine flavor of the “wild white” natural beauty. The green-skinned grape is, after all, prized for its refreshingly high acidity and bold herbaceous aromas of citrus, grapefruit, and gooseberry. 

But that isn't to say that Sauvignon Blanc is a variety that can't be aged in oak. A bit of barrel fermentation and handpicking of slightly riper grapes can result in a sophisticated bottling designed for a longer life.

It’s not surprising that Sauvignon Blanc is quite a polarizing wine. Some believe it’s the best white wine, while others wouldn't dare put it in their glass, let alone keep a bottle in their cellars. And there's the common misconception that Sauvignon does not make a wine for aging. But perhaps, we’d wager, it’s this varietal prejudice that keeps wine lovers from indulging in the real potential of Sauvignon Blanc.

Ageing Sauvignon Blanc

Dry, complex, creamy, and full-bodied – these words describe the perfectly aged bottle of Sauvignon Blanc.

Nearly all the world’s best red and white wines see oak in some form before making their way into a bottle. Oak barrels have tannin, which helps a wine mellow with time, softening and rounding out the flavors. While it’s fun to catch Sauvignons while they’re young, they develop beautifully when aged in French oak barrels. They offer warmth and smokiness on the nose but still retain some of the crisp, green fruit flavors of unoaked Sauvignon Blanc.

Barrel-aged Sauvignon Blanc is a rare specialty. We know from experience that different food flavor combinations have natural affinities for one another, like strawberries and chocolate or a mustard and dill dressing for smoked salmon. In the same way, Sauvignon Blanc has an affinity to French oak. The French oak tends to impart elegant flavors of candied nuts, berries, and a hint of vanilla onto Sauvignon Blanc. Wood also molds the wine to feel creamier and broader on the palate for a rich, lasting finish.

Sauvignons from Pouilly-Fumés and Sancerre are deliberately designed for a longer life, displaying pleasant truffle aromas after a couple of years in the bottle. These wines can remain alive for decades and retain a remarkable bouquet.

Intriguingly, Sauvignon Blanc maintains its pale color throughout aging. As other whites take on a darker yellow the longer they sit in oak, barrel-aged Sauvignons remain indiscernible from current vintages.

Experience The Richness and Finesse of Barrel-Aged Sauvignon Blanc

Oaked Sauvignons have remained a sideshow in the Sauvignon Blanc story for far too long. As Sauvignon Blanc Day approaches on the 7th of May, come to our boutique Napa Winery experience new varietals of Sauvignon Blanc that focus on complexity and longevity.

Our estate bottled 2017 Sauvignon Blanc was fermented on native yeast in a combination of one-third new oak, one-third once-used oak, and one-third stainless steel, giving the wine a richer, creamier texture. Having aged 12 months in French oak, the SB17 has a rich complexity that’s striking yet taut on the palate. With softly integrated flavors of acacia, hyacinth, lemon, and vanilla bean, this wine is the perfect introduction to barrel-aged Sauvignon Blanc.

For those who treasure unoaked Sauvignons for their crispy acidity, the 2020 Sauvignon Blanc is a must-try. Having been aged in French oak barrels and stainless-steel drums for six months, the 2020 SB is wonderful now and age-worthy for up to five years.


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