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Savagnin white wine variety

An accidental success story

By Arnaud 25 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The big Boo Boo

Until very recently Savagnin was not known to be used commercially in Australia. Since 2009 it has been known that the vineyards in Australia which thought they were planting Albarino were in fact planting Savagnin.

The wines are still excellent, it's just that the wine needs to be marketed under a new name.  

Apparently propagation material from Spain via France labelled as "Albarino" were in fact "Savagnin".  This material was used by vine nurseries to supply all of vineyards who planted it in the early 2000s. By the end of that decade DNA analysis had revealed the mistake.

Other cases of mistaken Identity

This is not the only time that mistakes have occurred. In the nineteen nineties it was discovered that many vineyards in Chile thought to be Merlot were in fact another  Bordeaux variety Carmenere .  Many other vineyards were found to be field blends of the two varieties.  Carmenre is better suited to the drier conditions and is now a major variety in Chile.

Some Western Australian wineries planted a variety called Carnelian when they thought they had Sangiovese.  A few have persisted with the variety, which makes good red and rose wines.

So what is Savagnin?

Savagnin in France

Jura Wine by Wink LorchJura Wine by Wink Lorch

This book, available as a Kindle ebook includes descriptions of the Savagnin and Vin Jaune

Savagnin is a very old variety which is believed to have originated somewhere in north east France or in adjacent areas of Germany.  There is a substantial number of clones some of which are usually regarded as separate varieties.  There are dozens of synonyms, reflecting its age and distribution.

Gewurztraminer is a clone of this variety.

The clone that is most commonly grown now is often called Savagnin blanc.  It is particularly known for its role for the production of vin jaune in the Jura Region.

Savagnin in Australia

After the mistake was discovered grape growers and wine makers were faced with a choice, whether to persist with Savagnin or to graft their vines over to something else. Fortunately many had already made a couple of vintages and were impressed enough to continue with Savagnin.

Australian dry white wines from this variety are often excellent, crisp and light bodied, ideal with appetisers or seafood. They are very similar in style at least to the best Albarino wines from north west Spain.

As the wines can't be labelled as "Albarino".  The name Savagnin is similar to Sauvignon and hence causes confusion.  Some winemakers us fantasy names, for example Soumah use Saverro, and Dalfarras use Savinno.

About sixty wineries are using Savagnin in Australia.

Do you know of any I have missed?

Leave a comment in the box below.

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