Savagnin white wine variety

An accidental success story

Savagnin made by Drakesbook in the Peel region of WADarkesbrook Savagnin

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 the vineyards who planted it in the early 2000s. By the end of that decade DNA analysis had revealed the mistake.

Savagnin Vines at Crittenden Estate in The Mornington PeninsulaSavagnin Vines at Crittenden Estate in The Mornington Peninsula

Other cases of mistaken Identity

This is not the only time that mistakes have occurred. In the 1990s 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.  Carmenere 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.

Many or most Australian plantings of Petit Manseng are now believed to be in fact Gros Manseng.

So what is Savagnin?

Savagnin in France

Jura Wine by Wink LorchJura Wine by Wink Lorch

This book, availalbe from Book Depository includes descriptions of the Savagnin variety 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.  

Despite the similarity of names this variety is a distinct variety to Sauvignon Blanc. 

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.

The aromatic 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 the rather idiosyncratic vin jaune in the Jura Region of Eastern France.

Savagnin in Australia

Savagnin white wine in Australia.By Arnaud 25 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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 with the wines 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 use fantasy names, for example Soumah use Saverro, and Dalfarras use Savinno.

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Last update 20 Oct 2022

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