Transcript: Comparing Chardonnay And Sauvignon Blanc
Hello, Bonjour, and welcome to a new Bonner Private Wines video. I'm your host, Julien, and today we're going to be comparing the two most popular types of white wines, the two types of still whites that you're most likely to find on the shelves of your local wine shop. So the next time you go there, you know which one you should pick and more importantly, why.
We're going to be talking and comparing those two types of white wines that are made from two different grapes, both originating from France. But we're not only going to be talking about French wines today, on one side, we're going to have the Chardonnay, the most popular of all white wines. That's true in the US, but also all around the world to the sauvignon blanc on the other side.
So I'm going to be telling you, what are the key characteristics of these two wines and how they differ when you taste them one from the other. I'm going to be tasting all of these four wines and then I'll go one step further, comparing those two Chardonnays. There is one that comes from the famous French wine region of Chablis, which is a very famous type of French Chardonnay from Burgundy with a California Chardonnay, an iconic Chardonnay wine, namely Rombauer.
And then I'll be tasting a French sauvignon blanc from the Loire Valley, from the homeland of sauvignon blanc, to a sauvignon blanc from a country that's become very, very popular for producing sauvignon blanc wines, namely New Zealand. But before we get to tasting just a few words on those two different types of wines…
My fellow wine loving friends, Julian here. Before we get started with the video, there is something that you have to know about. This video was made possible by the Bonner Private Wine Partnership, and the reason I work with them is not just because it's been called the most unique wine club in America, but because they truly love the wines that they choose for you.
Founded by Will Bonner, the partnership is a small group of wine lovers who have come together to import excellent small batch wines that might otherwise get completely overlooked by large importers. They get them. Right now you can get your hands on three rare, extreme attitude red wines from Argentina, from some of the purest, highest vineyards in the entire world, way up in the Andes Mountains. No middlemen, no additive-packed supermarket wines here, no inflated cost. Plus, you get exclusive access to more wine education videos from me, just like the one you’re about to watch to make sure you become an educated wine connoisseur. So make sure to check out the link in the video description to see if you want to become a partner in something truly special in the world of wine. But for now, back to your video.
So first, they both originated from France and they've both been planted virtually everywhere around the world to become the number one and number two white grapes as far as international wine grape varieties are concerned. So Chardonnay originates from Burgundy and around that's around the center, deep inland, the country of France, in the northern part of France, while sauvignon blanc comes from the Loire valley that is literally covered with France's king’s castles, a beautiful valley, more on the western part of the country towards the Atlantic Ocean.
So the top producing countries for Chardonnays are France number one, still the biggest producer of Chardonnay wines in the world, but closely followed by the United States. As you know, Chardonnay is very big, big, big in the US, very, very popular being the most appreciated white wine in the country. Full stop. And there's also plenty of Chardonnay planted in Italy and produced in Italy, in Chile, in South Africa, in Spain, in Argentina, everywhere, as for sauvignon blanc, France is also the biggest producer, but followed closely by New Zealand, the wine I'll be tasting later on here.
You'll often find plenty of sauvignon blanc from California at your local wine shop. And in the US you'll very often find it as fumé blanc, as a wine called fumé blanc. But let's get tasting and find out what are the differences between those two different white wines.
I can already see that there are some differences in the color.
So to compare those two grapes, I'm going to be focusing for now on the French wines. I'm going to be focusing on the original expressions of the grapes. In chapter three, I will be getting into the regional variations in comparing with the US and the New Zealand, variations of the same grape. But let's stick to the French wines for now.
So on my left I put the Chablis wine region in Burgundy that is extremely famous for producing pure expressions of Chardonnay on a beautiful limestone terroir. So mineral Chardonnays that are not too often not very oaky. So you're getting the pure expression of the Chardonnay grapes on the limestone terroir, which is very mineral, and that makes a really fine Chardonnay wines.
On my right here, I have a wine that comes from a village that is called Sancerre, which is really where sauvignon blanc originates from. So we are very high on the Loire Valley around the very, very center of France. And also here they have some very specific terroir with a lot of limestone, a lot of flint as well, very rocky soils.
So they're getting a very mineral expression of sauvignon blanc. But let's get into tasting those two wines. So let's start with the Chardonnay. So typically here we are getting hints of lemon and delicate citrus characters together with a bit of brioche, a bit of buttery element to the Chardonnay wines. And those are all the key features of a Chardonnay wine.
It smells buttery, it smells opulent. It smells quite tempting, really like a freshly baked cookie with some lemon zest on top of it, or something like this. This is round. It's got a full body. You can feel a bit of an oily texture on your palate. Yes, it is zingy and mineral, and that's what you expect from a good Chardonnay.
You're getting the acidity that shines through and that makes these citrusy flavors burst on your palate. But you're also getting the full body and oily texture that underlines the buttery brioche-y, sort of almost fatty characters that you expect from a Chardonnay on the finish. There are a few spices, sweet spices, a bit of clove, a bit of cinnamon, a bit of white pepper as well.
And that's often related to Chardonnay being at least a little bit aged in oak barrels, which adds a little bit of oxidative character, a bit of waxy character, a bit of length, a bit of spices to the finish. And there is also a little bit of tropical characters, a bit of pineapple, a bit of lychee characters to it as well.
Let's dig into the French sauvignon blanc from Sancerre. So first off, you can see, you could probably see, that the color of it is a little bit more on the green side of things where we were a little bit golden here. Here we’re definitely green. It looks like you are looking at those green grapes. You know, it was just the color from the grapes.
And that's because, generally speaking, sauvignon blancs do not see a lot of oxygen during the winemaking process. So they preserve that impeccable greenness from the grapes when you look at them. But let's have a smell of this sauvignon blanc. So definitely here what jumps out of the glass and you've probably experienced this if you've tasted a sauvignon blanc are the big powerful citrus characters.
But instead of being just on the lemon, here we are on the powerful grapefruit. There's also an explosive character of passion fruit. A lot of tropical characters. And it smells also very grassy. It sort of smells like freshly cut herbs, freshly cut grass. And that's extremely typical of sauvignon blanc. So typically, while we had an oily, soft body here, here, it's dominated by a vibrant, sharp, a crisp acidity that makes you salivate.
An explosion of this very grassy grapefruit. It's almost like biting, if you bite into, an entire grapefruit. It's so explosive and grassy and citrusy, it's almost bitter as well. And this is also very characteristic of sauvignon blanc. So those two types of wines appeal to kind of different palates of different tasting experiences. Some people will like their Chardonnays better because it's softer, it's milder, and maybe it appeals to a broader audience, hence the success of Chardonnay.
What sauvignon blanc is really about, the intensity of the acidity and the vibrancy of the citrusy grassy characters. Sauvignon blancs are absolutely perfect to go with seafood dishes because of the strong acidity that it adds. It's like squeezing lime or freshly squeezed lemon or grapefruit on your fish or on your seafood dishes. And it's absolutely perfect for this.
Sauvignon blanc is also going to be wonderful on some goat cheeses because the goat cheese is acidic. So is the sauvignon blanc. The Chardonnay is going to be very, very versatile and go on to an extreme variety of flavors because it's discreet, because it's soft and mild, and it's always going to respect anything that you're going to have with it, while the sauvignon blanc is quite, quite powerful. So you do not want to have it on dishes that are too mild. But let's dig into the regional variations of those same grapes. So, yes, beyond the variation between two different types of grapes, there can be quite an immense variation between different countries and even sometimes even between different regions.
So let's dig into the type of variation that you can have even within Chardonnay. Comparing the French expression that I've talked about, the Chablis, which is rather pure, the pure expression of the fruit character, with just a tiny bit of oak, to an iconic wine made in the Carneros area of the Napa Sonoma Valley. So we are down very south of the Napa and Sonoma Valleys around the San Pablo Bay.
For those who know the area, this is Rombauer Vineyards, Carneros Chardonnay, which has sort of become a bit of an iconic California Chardonnay; I mean, iconic in the sense that it is a very common one and one that is really archetypal of the Chardonnay style. It's also renowned — I’ll let you know straight away, I have never tried this wine before — but it's also renowned for being very, very oaky and being a little bit of this old style of a very oaky California Chardonnay wines.
Hence me interested in tasting this wine for you. Let's dig into what it smells like. You can already see that the color is much more intense with this Chardonnay, much more golden hues in here. Then there was in the French wine, probably again, because it's gone through oak, the oak bringing in some color, some additional color, as well as a bit of oxygen, which kind of oxygenates and makes the color a little bit more intense, a little bit more involved.
But let's see what it smells like now. Wow. Yes. So I'm definitely getting a lot of oak character. Those come through as a bit of a wood smoke characters and big burst of vanilla as well. A bit of coconut or coconut milk expression in there as well. If you dig well enough into the wine, yes, you may feel a little bit of lemon, but it's more on the lemon confit or the lemon marmalade here.
And there's a lot of tropical characters here, a lot of pineapple, a lot of mango. And this is because California, generally speaking, has a much warmer climate. So the grapes are much riper and they come through with more generous fruit expression or tropical expressions, as opposed to the lemon limey characters that you find in the French wine. But let's dig into what it tastes like.
Wow. Yeah. So the oily texture that I was talking about before here, it sort of exemplifies. It's amplified, it's super, super, super oily on your palate. You can coat your palate with this oily texture. And there's some tannins coming from the oak and the explosion of flavors. Here is definitely all on the caramel, on the cinnamon, on the vanilla side.
Everything oaky, everything generous and opulent with a huge burst of tropical. The mango here is what shines through for me. I can also feel a bit of the heat of the wine, a bit of the alcohol, while I could definitely not find it here on the Chablis wine, but let's dig into the two expressions of sauvignon blanc and see what they taste like.
So let's compare the French sauvignon blanc that I was telling you about before. That is nice and crisp and zingy, to it's kiwi counterpart that is called Tohu. Single vineyard sauvignon blanc. So this is grown in the most famous region in New Zealand for growing sauvignon blanc, which is called Marlborough, the Marlborough wine region. One of the first differences that you are going to be noticing between French and Kiwi sauvignon blanc is that the Kiwi Sauvignon is going to have a screw cap as opposed to a cork. Whether, which one is best, I'm not going into this. Let's say that both are really, really good. Screw cap is not only for cheap wines, it can be extremely good for preserving the flavors and the pure expression of the grapes. And that's why the Kiwis love screw cap. You have less risk of having a corked wine with screw caps as well, but let's dig into what these two single vineyard wines smell like.
So I was telling you that the French sauvignon blanc before is a little bit limey, is a little bit grapefruity, very vibrant, and a little bit grassy. First off, the Kiwi sauvignon blanc has a very, very similar color, in fact. Wow. Okay. So it's much more powerful straight away. I'm getting a huge explosion of passion fruit characters, and it's going over a little bit sweaty passionfruit, and that's a term that the Kiwi use for the sauvignon blanc, and I lived in New Zealand for about six years, so I do know quite a fair bit about sauvignon blanc. They talk about sweaty passionfruit because it's not only the fruitiness of the passionfruit, but it's also the sort of bitterness of the passionfruit that comes through as well.
A huge, huge, huge explosion of this when you as soon as you stick your nose into the glass, zingy, crisp, vibrant crystal, sort of, you feel like you have crystals of acidity on your palate. Very fresh, very zingy, just like the French sauvignon blanc. The big difference here is just the flavor, the aroma intensity that you find in the Kiwi sauvignon blanc, explosive expression of this great fruit, of the passion fruit, of the fresh pineapple.
It's like biting into a very fresh and not so ripe pineapple. You know, this biting acidity that you're getting from the pineapple as well, extremely powerful. It's a beautiful wine as well. Very balanced, very elegant. It's a little bit like this. Remember the name in English, this lemongrass? I think you call it lemongrass. There's definitely a lot of lemongrass, like biting into lemongrass when you taste this wine, the French sauvignon blanc, perhaps a little bit more restrained, a little bit more elegant as well.
I guess the French one is perhaps going to respect the food a little bit better over all, be a little bit more versatile. Well, this is so explosive that you will have to be careful what you’re pairing this with. But Kiwi sauvignon blanc is perfect with Asian dishes as well because they can be quite powerful, quite spicy as well, and this has so much flavor intensity that it can withstand being paired with very, very strong dishes.
My conclusion, there is a different wine from different occasions for different palates. Everyone has different tastes. I personally do not like to rank different wine styles. I guess I do have my personal preferences, but I can see the value in all of these different styles of wines and all of those are very, very beautiful, superb wines.
Which one is your favorite? Well, I'm guessing you've explored Chardonnay already, or at least California Chardonnay. It's a very good style of wine, but it's quite opulent. It's very, very oaky. If you haven't tasted a French Chardonnay, well, give it a try. Maybe it was probably to experience something a little bit more subtle or a little bit more elegant.
And I guess you will find something interesting, perhaps in Chablis, Burgundy, Chardonnay, for example, if you haven't explored sauvignon blanc all that much, it's a fascinating grape as well to explore. If you're stuck with your Chardonnay, well, maybe try sauvignon blanc, see if you like this passion fruity, this grassiness that the grape develops. There's also a huge variation of sauvignon blanc wines from Napa Valley, from the US, from Sonoma County, from Santa Barbara, all across California, and I think even from Oregon.
And there's a big variation between the new world countries such as New New Zealand or Australia and the French homeland of the Loire Valley in France. Lots and lots of discoveries to make. If you haven't explored sauvignon blanc quite yet, I hope you enjoyed today's video. I hope you've learned something and I will see you soon with our next video for the Border Private Wine Club, coming up next week. Au revoir, bye bye.