Fume’ Blanc:

Where does that name come from?


Fume Blanc is a quality white wine made from the Sauvignon Blanc grape in California. It began as the brainchild of renowned winemaker Robert Mondavi, as a way of circumventing the negative image held by the Sauvignon Blanc grape in California at the time.

Before the 1970s, Sauvignon Blanc in the United States was a grape given little consideration by most winemakers, and therefore resulted in poor wines that came to be regarded with disdain by consumers. Virtually all Sauvignon Blanc of this era was overly sweet and lacked much texture or nuance. In the late 1960s, however, Robert Mondavi received a particularly fine batch of Sauvignon Blanc grapes and decided to attempt to turn them into a wine reaching towards the style of the great Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc wines. Mondavi was particularly inspired by a Pouilly-Fume wine he had tasted from the Loire Valley, and as he was looking for a way to differentiate his Sauvignon Blanc from the sweet low-grade wines of the time, he chose the name Fume Blanc.Since that time, Sauvignon Blanc has become a well-respected grape in California, and the extra term is used to characterize a difference in style. California wines designated as Sauvignon Blanc tend to be in the Bordeaux style, with a great deal of ripeness. Wines which bear the title Fume Blanc are modeled after the Loire Valley wines, with a more subtle elegance about them. Fume Blanc is considered by many to be one of Mondavi’s earliest great successes. Only two years after founding his now-legendary winery, he transformed one of California’s scorned grapes into one of its most loved – using a single batch of good grapes and a healthy dose of shrewd marketing.

Fume Blanc is an extremely drinkable wine that pairs with a wide assortment of foods, most especially creamy cheeses and fish of all sorts. Like many white wines, it is not built to mature over long periods of time and should be drunk while still young and full of life. Flavors in Fume Blanc tend towards  tart fruits such as gooseberry and green apple, with some tropical fruit like melon in some examples.

The term Fume Blanc is acceptable in the United States as a direct synonym with Sauvignon Blanc. Though many wineries attempt to differentiate between styles by using either the term Fume Blanc or Sauvignon Blanc, one should be aware that this distinction is voluntary, and not all wineries follow the practice.

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