Growing Sauvignon Blanc Wine Grapes

Grapes April 15, 2012 Print Friendly and PDF

Growth habits       In the continental US       In the Northeast       In the Mid-Atlantic       For more information

Sauvignon blanc.

Sauvignon Blanc has been grown for several centuries in Bordeaux and the Loire Valley. The exact origin is unknown.

As a varietal wine, Sauvignon Blanc is dry or slightly sweet. It is commonly blended with Semillon. In a cooler climate it has a strong varietal character that is less pronounced in a warm area. If harvested late, or if noble rot occurs, it will produce a very sweet wine.

Growth Habits

Vines grow vigorously in many soil types in both cool and warm regions; it is generally advisable to avoid highly fertile and deep soils. Vine spacing should be a minimum of 6 feet. Shoots grow upright, which facilitates vertical-shoot-positioned trellises. Budbreak is after Chardonnay.

Head training with fruiting canes and renewal spurs is recommended due to low basal bud fertility; however, cordon training with spur pruning is common. Hedging is recommended no earlier than mid- to late July in order to avoid increasing berry size. Mechanical pre-pruning on cordon-trained vines facilitates the removal of canes that are held in the trellis wires by a large number of tendrils. Machine box pruning is successfully used in warm-climate districts.

In the continental US

This cultivar sustains substantial fruit losses due to disease and predation. Ripens early. Not recommended.

In the northeast US

Sauvignon Blanc has produced outstanding wines in New York. However, several major problems with the variety suggest that it should be planted with caution. It is a very vigorous variety with a long vegetative cycle. Cold hardiness is difficult to attain in our climate, and its maximum hardiness appears to be quite low. The clusters are very susceptible to Botrytis infection and the strong vegetative growth produces a large canopy which increases bunch rot potential and reduces vine fruitfulness. We have only tested a single clone from California. Clones from Europe are reported to have shorter vegetative cycles and might be better adapted to New York.

In the mid-Atlantic US

The principal liabilities of Sauvignon blanc are its susceptibility to winter cold injury as well as its high susceptibility to fruit bunch rots. Not recommended.

Recommended Links

The National Grape Registry (NGR) contains information about varieties of wine, juice, and table grapes, raisins, and grape rootstocks available in the United States. Growers, nurseries, winemakers and researchers can find background information and source contacts for those grape varieties in this single convenient location.

Information contributed by:
Eric Stafne, Oklahoma State University
Bruce Reisch, Robert Pool, David Peterson, Mary-Howell Martens, and Thomas Henick-Kling, Cornell University
Elina Coneva, Auburn University
The Mid-Atlantic Winegrape Grower's Guide
University of California Integrated Viticulture online

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.