Courtesy of Franciscan Estate Napa Valley
Ah, Sauvignon Blanc. It’s zesty, it’s crisp, it’s loaded with citrusy zing, it whets the appetite and it tastes great served cold on a hot day. And, once in a while, it smells like a green pepper exploded in your glass.
Those aromas—shading from cut grass to green pepper to jalapeno—come from the presence in the wine of naturally occurring compounds called methoxypyrazines, which tend to be more present in cooler climate and/or underripe Sauvignons. (The specific compound is 2-methoxy-3-isobutylpyrazine, an excellent conversation-stopper for your next cocktail party.)
Now some people, unsurprisingly, don’t like wines that smell of green peppers, and, honestly, most winemakers don’t like them either. But a certain amount of grassy greenness does give Sauvignon its allure for some folks. In the end, here’s my advice: If you like the peppery intensity that Sauvignon Blanc can have, head toward cooler climate regions, like New Zealand, South Africa’s Cape area and France’s Loire Valley. If you don’t like it, stick to warmer climates—Napa Valley would be a classic example.