If you ever want to taste for yourself what a difference geography can make when it comes to wine, line up a row of Sauvignon Blancs from the Old World and New World for a side-by-side tasting.
Flavors and aromas: Those from France will be bone-dry, with grassy, herbaceous, and mineral nuances; those from New Zealand, however, are more pungent and piquant—lush with grapefruit, passion fruit, and more, plus a bell-ringing acidity that might verge on pickle-ish if it weren't for the juicy-fruit foil. California bottlings are often suped up with time in oak.
Color: One of the palest of wines, this one usually ranges from very light yellow with a slightly green tinge to a more buttery yellow. A more golden color likely indicates the wine has seen some oak.
Prominent plantings: In its native France, the grape prospers in the Loire Valley, particularly the villages of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé. In New Zealand, the sun-soaked Marlborough region has proven to be Eden for Sauv Blanc, amplifying its bold, fruity side. This zingy style has proven so popular that many California makers are now aiming for a bright, unwooded style. South Africa produces excellent SB as well. In Bordeaux, Sauvignon Blanc gets blended with Semillon, yielding a rounder, less tart style.
Pairing with food: Thanks to the grape's natural streak of acidity, Sauvignon Blancs from various origins work well with high-acid cheeses (goat, feta) and lemony fish or chicken dishes. It's simpatico with green onions and herbs, too (oregano, tarragon, parsley, thyme).
Insider tip: Sauvignon Blanc was especially popular in the 1970s, but was called Fumé Blanc; today, some wineries still call it by that name.