One is a prominent French wine region. The other is the grape used to make white wines from that region. Find out the main differences between Sancerre vs Sauvignon Blanc, so you can choose your next bottle with confidence.
Originally known for its red wine grapes, the Sancerre area of France is now much more famous for producing world-class dry, white wines. And winemakers here only use one grape to make those wines: Sauvignon Blanc.
But while all white Sancerre is Sauvignon Blanc, not all Sauvignon Blanc is Sancerre.
In this post, I’ll go over the delicious differences between the two, including flavor profiles, food pairings, and average costs.
What is Sancerre?
Located in the eastern part of France’s Loire Valley on the left bank of the Loire River lies the Sancerre AOC, or Appellation d’origine contrôlée. The wine region is best known for growing Sauvignon Blanc grapes, used to make Sancerre white wines.
The area’s relatively cooler climate gives the grapes and wine bright acidity. And its flinty soil lends the wines a crisp minerality.
That crispness also has to do with how Sancerre wine is made. Most winemakers use stainless steel rather than oak barrels. So the wines won’t have vanilla or caramel flavors that oak barrels can impart. Instead, they’ll be more fruit-forward and clean.
And while about 80% of the wines produced here are whites, the other 20% are rosé and red Sancerre (or Sancerre rouge), made with the Pinot Noir grape variety.
What does Sancerre taste like?
If you like zesty acidic wines, chances are you’ll enjoy a Sancerre. These zippy wines are dry and typically feature prominent citrus and grassy flavors, along with notes of gooseberry, honeysuckle, green apple, white peach, and pear. The region’s limestone and flint soils also give these wines a pronounced minerality. In terms of structure, they’re generally light to medium-bodied.
Red and rosé Sancerre flavor profile
While still acidic, red Sancerres generally feature prominent notes of black cherry, along with hints of vanilla and mushroom. Made with Pinot Noir grapes, they can often be higher in tannins than those from other well-known Pinot production regions like Oregon’s Willamette Valley.
Sancerre rosé wines are light, fruity, and dry, with hints of cherry and strawberry, along with pleasant acidity and minerality. The ideal wine to enjoy on a warm spring or summer day.
What is Sauvignon Blanc?
While Sauvignon Blanc grapes are used exclusively to make white wines from Sancerre, the grape and wine are produced in different regions throughout the world.
This white wine grape thrives in areas with mild temperatures. In France’s Bordeaux region, it’s often blended with others like Muscadelle and Semillon to create White Bordeaux or Bordeaux Blanc.
New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, and the United States are other large producers of Sauvignon Blanc. Wines from these areas also have high acidity, but they tend to be more fruit-forward than Sancerres, with more tropical fruit notes.
What does Sauvignon Blanc taste like?
As noted already, many Sauvignon Blanc wines produced in France tend to exhibit citrusy, grassy flavors, along with herbal notes of green peppers (that’s thanks to a compound in the grape called pyrazine). New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc generally features lusher fruit flavors, such as passionfruit, papaya, guava, and grapefruit, along with green apple and melon.
Aromas of mango, passion fruit, nectarine, fresh-cut grass, chalk, and wet concrete are typical.
Sauvignon Blanc from warmer climates like California can be fuller-bodied and higher in alcohol. They’re also often aged in oak, creating a style of wine called fumé blanc.
The color of Sauvignon Blanc can also be distinctive, ranging from pale yellow to light gold, and in some cases hues of green, mimicking its green apple and grassy characteristics.
Sancerre vs Sauvignon Blanc food pairings
Sancerre is very food-friendly, so this dry white wine will pair well with a wide variety of dishes. It goes particularly well with fish, including grilled trout and bass. It’s also ideal with poultry and pork. And the wine’s grassy notes complement spring vegetables such as asparagus, garlicky green beans, and artichokes. In terms of cheese, creamy varieties will help balance the high acidity of these French wines, so opt for something like brie or soft goat cheese.
Sauvignon Blancs from wine regions outside of Sancerre can have their own specific ideal food pairings. The tropical fruit and citrus notes in New Zealand Sauv Blancs are a great complement to spicier Asian dishes like some Thai curries. And the wine’s acidity will pair well with richer seafood like scallops and lobster.
More full-bodied Sauvignon Blancs aged in oak, like some produced in California’s Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley, can pair well with rich dishes like mushroom risotto and creamy pasta.
The starting point for a bottle of Sancerre is around $15 a bottle. These wines will be ready to drink right away but may not be particularly complex or layered. For higher-quality Sancerre, expect to pay around $25 and up. Some of the best examples of Sancerre can fetch closer to $60.
Sauvignon Blancs from other regions around the world are similarly priced. The entry point is about $15 for many New Zealand, Australian, and U.S. Sauv Blancs. For higher-end ones, $30 to $50 is more common.
It’s best to serve Sauvignon Blanc chilled but not too cold, or that will mute many of its flavors. About an hour before opening, place a bottle in the fridge or until it reaches a temperature of about 50° Fahrenheit.
The Sancerre wine appellation lies on the left bank of the Loire River in the eastern part of France’s Loire Valley. Known for its crisp white wines made with Sauvignon Blanc grapes, the area neighbors another prominent Sauv Blanc appellation, Pouilly Fumé. It sits just opposite, on the right bank of the Loire River.
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