What Exactly is Fume Blanc?
It works everytime, add a “Fume Blanc” to a tasting menu in the category of Sauvignon Blanc and you are sure to get some confused patrons. So what exactly is Fume Blanc?
Before the 1970’s Sauvignon Blanc was thought to be an inferior grape….even though the first cuttings of Sav Blanc were brought over to California in the 1880’s from Chateau d’Yguem – the premier Sauternes vineyard in France…but enough about that. Sauvignon Blanc (or Sav Blanc as many refer to it) was made to sweet for American taste and therefore was not the easiest wine to sell for domestic producers.
Enter Robert Mondavi, who even a the beginning of the California wine movement, was a force to be reckoned with. Mondavi produced an excellent (and large) crop of Sauvignon Blanc grapes in 1966 and was adamant about selling the grapes as a premier wine. He eventually bottled and released the 100% Sauvignon Blanc wine under a new name, Fume Blanc.
Today Fume Blanc is merely a pseudonym for a domestic Sauvignon Blanc, but can vary in style slightly. Some producers of Fume Blanc use the production methods Mondavi did in that first vintage – aging it in oak barrels – to set it apart from the competition and create an unique twist on the varietal.
Here are some of my favorite Fume Blancs:
Grgich Hills Fume Blanc, 2008
100% Sauvignon Blanc from the cooler Napa County regions of Carneros and American Canyon. Aged for six months on the lees (s
tems of the grapes) in French oak barrels, 80% neutral (used previous to this vintage), 20% new. Flavors of grapefruit and melon, with green vegetable flavors and balanced acidity.
$30, or Buy 2, Get 1 FREE (Coupon code: BUY2)
Robert Mondavi Private Reserve Fume Blanc, 2008
The original Fume Blanc. 92% Sauvignon Blanc, 8% Semillon from Stags Leap District, Oakville, Napa Valley and Northern California. 68% of the grapes were fermented in French oak barrels, with the remainder in stainless steel tanks to maintain freshness of the grapes’ flavor. Lime, lemongrass and a hint of spice.