What is Fumé Blanc?

I was recently asked about Fumé Blanc. And, as you might guess, it's made from the Fumé Blanc grape.  Except, you'd be wrong. Just like I was.  Fumé Blanc wine is produced from the Sauvignon Blanc grape.

It was back in 1966 that wine maker Robert Mondavi decided to grow Sauvignon Blanc grapes in Napa Valley, California. But Sauvignon Blanc had developed a bit of a negative reputation for being poorly made, too grassy and too sweet. So, in what turned out to be a great marketing ploy, he decided to call his Sauvignon Blanc wine by another name. And the name he chose had a lot to do with fine Sauvignon Blanc wines from France.

In the Loire Valley of central France (South of Paris) is the wine region of Pouilly-Fumé.  This region, along with the region of Sancerre, which lies just across the Loire River to the west, is best known for its Sauvignon Blanc wines. And these wines were a strong influence on Robert Mondavi. So, in honor of the wonderful Sauvignon Blanc wines of Pouilly-Fumé, Mondavi named his wine made from the Sauvignon Blanc grape Fumé Blanc.

One of the primary differences between the Sauvignon Blanc wines of France and Fumé Blanc is that Fumé Blanc spends some time aging in oak barrels. The French Sauvignon Blanc wines are generally not aged in oak.  This oak aging can give Fumé Blanc a bit more of a rich, creamy taste to go along with the green flavors of pear, melon and mineral notes (think chalk, slate and wet stone).

Next time I'll give you a bit more about Sauvignon Blanc. It has a famous child. Can you guess? So in the meantime, raise a glass of Fumé Blanc to the late, great, Robert Mondavi. Cheers!

Behind the Cork™ Wine of the Week - Robert Mondavi Fumé Blanc ($15)

Originated by Robert Mondavi in 1966, this Sauvignon Blanc spends time aging in oak to give it a bit more of a rich, creamy taste along with the green flavors of pear, melon and mineral notes. If you are a Chardonnay drinker and not so sure about Sauvignon Blanc, then you need to try this Fumé Blanc.