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About Sauvignon Gris, aka Fié
(Synonyms: Fié, Fié Gris, Sauvignon Gris)
The grape known as both Sauvignon Gris and Fié is a white-wine grape originating in Bordeaux, where it was a mutation of Sauvignon Blanc; it is now also widely grown in Chile, and is quickly becoming well-stablished in Uruguay and especially in New Zealand.
(The commonest name is Sauvignon Gris, but the French grower widely credited with rescuing the grape from oblivion, Jacky Preys, calls it Fié Gris—the old name for it—and Fié is thus also a common denomination for the grape and wine.)
While it has languished in the shade of its much better-known parent, it is now coming to be appreciated for what it is, rather than disparaged for what it is not (which is to say, it is not an "alternative Sauvignon Blanc"). Its nose, in particular, is less ferocious than Sauvignon Blanc's, but it has a concentrated fruit and citrus quality; moreover, it is less cuttingly crisp, and tends toward a round, rich quality. All in all, it is a fine varietal well worth being known better.
Factoid: French AOC law dictates that wineries are not allowed to bottle Sauvignon Gris as a single varietal; those few who do must label it as a generic white Bordeaux. Weird people, the French.
Some Descriptions of Sauvignon Gris/Fié Wines
"Sauvignon gris is pink color wine grape that is a clonal mutation of Sauvignon blanc. The grape is primarily found in Bordeaux and Chile, where it was imported with Sauvignon blanc and Sauvignon vert cuttings. The grape produces less aromatic wines and is often use for blending."
- Wine Searcher
"Sauvignon Gris is less aromatic than its blanc brother, but much more elegant and certainly capable of producing interesting wines. Wines produced from Sauvignon Gris tend to be richer and more voluptuous in texture than Sauvignon Blanc, with ripe fruit flavors of mango and melon as well as citrus notes. The wines are usually dry and tend to have some of the herbaceous notes so typical of the Sauvignon family. . . As a wine, [Fié] offers much of the racy acidity and freshness of Sauvignon Blanc, but with an additional lushness that draws upon juicy stonefruit flavors. Fié is a highly scented grape variety and can produce high-quality wines."
- Bordeaux Undiscovered
"The grapes produce a wine which is less aromatic than Sauvignon Blanc but the acidity level is good and the pale straw coloured wines are rounded and rich. Sauvignon Gris is grown in Chile, Australia and New Zealand . . . as well as France, and the flavours can be of grapefruit, gorse blossom, passion fruit, lychee and pear with flinty notes of smoke and toast depending on where – and how – the wine is made."
"[T]he flavours are out of this world. Think ripe gooseberry and herbaceous characters not unlike their famed Sauvignon Blanc, but mixed with poached pear, apple, and guava; characters often found in Pinot Gris."
- Wine Terroirs
"Fié Gris is a variety which is at the same time rich and fresh, vivid . . ."
- Wine a Day
"The grape has a little more sugar content that the Sauvignon Blanc. Therefore it has a little more character and depth."
- Wine Geeks
"Sauvignon Gris has more of a pinkish hue to its skin (it is also known as Sauvignon Rosé) and has similar levels of acidity as that of Sauvignon Blanc. Sauvignon Gris does produce fruit with higher sugar levels than its cousin, which contribute to greater aromatics and a more rich and round feel to the wines. At one point these wines were highly prized yet due to the rediculously low yields that the grape produces it almost became extinct. Currently it is enjoying a small revival in the Graves region of Bordeaux."
- Wine Cellar Insider
"The grape is high in sugar with good acidity and the yields are often naturally low, which delivers good concentration of flavor."
Some Sauvignon Gris to Try
(About this list.)
The list of reasonably available specimens is woefully short: two from South America and two from France—and even several of those have relatively limited availability. Even expanding the price range would add little to that short list.
The quotations below are excerpts; we strenuously urge you to click on the green diamond ♦ symbol by each quoted review to see the full article.
- Cousiño Macul Sauvignon Gris, $10 - $17.
(Chile, Maipo Valley)
($13.94 at Saratoga Wine Exchange).
Some quotations and facts:
This was a very distinctive and flavorful white. Very light, bright straw gold. Broad nose of earth, ripe honeydew melons, and mowed grass and herbs. Broad, dry, and deeply flavored, with concentrated herby, minerally, peachy flavors, and an almost oily texture. Very long finish. Maybe not for everybody, but I thought this to be a very good value in a character-filled white made from a rare varietal. 89 points.
A relative of Sauvignon Blanc, this wine shows similar character in crisp, grapefruit flavors, but it also has fuller body and some herbal notes of thyme and especially fennel. Great with light foods or serious sipping (ie., you'll want to talk about this wine) on the patio. Good value!
Wine Advocate (date unknown), 87 points
International Wine Cellar (May/June 2011), 89 points
Bright straw. Musky herbs, pear skin and citrus pith on the nose. Dry and incisive, showing lively lemon and pink grapefruit flavors and a deeper orchard fruit quality. Finishes with solid grip and good clarity, repeating the herbal note. I like this wine's uncompromising character.
[T]he Cousiño family in Santiago is still producing gorgeous wines from [old vines]. A relative of sauvignon blanc, this pink-skinned grape produces a wine with a sweet, acidic nose, reminiscent of dried oranges and tangerines, fuller on the palate than its zippy brother—all around, this bottle is perfect for sipping on a cool late-summer evening, and goes great with oysters, mussels, and other richer seafoods.
Color: Pale yellow. Nose: White blossoms and peach. Taste: Dry and light bodied. Citrus fruit and notes of sweet spices. Summary: Light and savory fruit flavor. Makes a good aperitif. Great with cheeses. Rating: 3½ *
Originating in Graves in Bordeaux and arriving in Chile in the 19th century, this white wine grape could easily become Chile’s icon white wine. Medium-bodied with a greenish yellow color, the wine is less aromatic than its sister Sauvignon Blanc but no less appealing nonetheless. You’ll sense aromas of citrus, flowers, pear, white peach, and enjoy those as much as you will the flavors that follow: Citrus zest (grapefruit); a bit of sweet white peach, a good acid backbone, and delicious tropical fruit (banana) at the end. What a long, clean finish!. Even New Zealand is getting into the act. Don’t let it get too cold; 55F/13C is plenty cold enough. Then you get all the flavors.
In the glass, the wine was a medium silvery lemon color. The nose was fairly lackluster with some subtle white pear aromas and a faint whiff of peach of and grapefruit citrus. On the palate the wine was medium bodied with fairly low acidity. There were round white peach flavors along with some white grapefruit, grapefruit peel, and white pear. The character of the wine was broad and fat, which surprised me given the acid levels in most Sauvignon Blanc based wines. The finish was bitter, chalky and pithy and not really all that enjoyable. There were some similarities to Sauvignon Blanc in this wine, but not enough of them. It's certainly possible that this wine may have been a little past peak, but I really expected it to still be showing decently since I don't think I've ever had a Sauvignon Blanc wine shut down after only 3 years in bottle.
Appearance: silver-tinged pale straw. Nose: peach, pineapple, sharp mineral. Palate: rush of ripe pear, peach, and grapefruit with a a vibrant back-palate prickle and a sea-salt fade. Overall, a fascinating and refreshing wine. A well-executed example of a grape typically relegated to workhorse blending duty.
Lightly straw coloured, the nose of this Sauvignon Gris 2007 stands out for its notes of white peach and mandarin, with touches of ginger. Medium bodied, it has a full, unctuous texture and a spicy character with tropical fruits. There is a balanced combination of fruit with a silky texture.
- Domaine de Belle Vue Sauvignon Gris, $14 - $15.
(France, Loire Valley)
Some quotations and facts:
Pale straw in the glass showing aromas of racy citrus fruits….grapefruit & lemon with some nashi pear in the mix for good measure. There are hints of nougat,minerals, marzipan, fennel, cream and a slight sappy/resinous edge that is quiet enchanting…..it’s almost like a green bean character. On the palate the wine is energetic in its initial attack with vibrant grapefruit, lemon and crunchy pear fruit. That sappy/resinous note on the nose carries over onto the palate creating mystery and interest and there are hints of cream, minerals, custard apple, peach, soft spice, almond paste, nougart and light herbal notes. Lovely texture on the palate, a nervy disposition, plenty of sapid, minerally acidity and a lemony/nougat, persistent finish. Not an overly cerebral wine but one that is great drinking.
Gorgeous balance of round mouthfeel and high citrusy acidity. Pear and lemongrass on nose, minerally with white peach/tangerine in mouth and a grassy finish. Clean but warm. Sounds schitzo but isn't!
(This wine has limited availability, and so few published reviews.)
- Casa Silva Sauvignon Gris, $15 - $23.
(Chile, Colchagua Valley)
Some quotations and facts:
A few days later I was able to try another example of Sauvignon Gris, this time it was made from very old vines in Colchagua Valley by a winery called Casa Silva and I loved it. Sauvignon Gris is . . . fatter and less aromatic than its sibling. In France they are historically blended together to give more texture and richness than Sauvignon Blanc would have on its own. Personally I think Sauvignon Gris is potentially a very interesting grape, indeed so excited was I by the Casa Silva wine that I actually became the first person ever to ship a few cases to the UK.
Very aromatic, but not really complex. Nice and pleasant with a round and slightly mineral finish.
International Wine Cellar (1 March 2009), 90 points.
The Sauvignon Gris vines at the estate have been in place since 1912. This makes it one of the best examples of wine in the world. The grape has a little more sugar content that the Sauvignon Blanc. Therefore it has a little more character and depth. It makes a great partner with rice based dishes.
More of a novelty than anything, this Sauv Gris from Casa Silva offers clean, fresh aromas of apple, green melon and talcum powder. It smacks of crispness and green apples on the palate, and the finish is cleansing and gets the job done. Arguably a little pricey for what amounts to a basic white wine. But it’s pretty nice nonetheless.
Pale gold in the glass, this wine has a wonderfully bright lemon pith and wet stone minerality in its aromas. In the mouth, gorgeous deep minerality marries with lemon and pink grapefruit pith. Outstanding crispness and fantastically bright acidity. . . Gorgeous. 13.6% alcohol. Score: around 9.
1912 old vines. Very pale straw yellow. Aromatic with melon, lemon, and a touch of minerality on both the nose and palate. Dry and light-bodied with good acidity, a bit of creaminess, and a medium to long finish. Quality: 3 stars (out of 5). QPR: 1 bang for your buck (out of 5).
- Chateau de Bellevue Sauvignon Gris, $17 - $28.
Some quotations and facts:
This is a lime- and lemon-flavored wine that is fruity and refreshing. It is delicate, bright and light, and attractive to drink now as an apéritif. 87 points.
Really fine, lively and dry, it has an intense ripe green taste, like candied citron.
[Google-translated from French:] Rare gray sauvignon, this wine is the witness of nature. It delivers rich fruity aromas of pear, pineapple, mango, citrus, which rub shoulders with fine notes of grapefruit. Delicious complexity that is found in the mouth with a nice freshness and good structure to the final deliciously tangy. A very agreeable totality with no frills.
[W]e taste his fresh, fruity white made from sauvignon gris — the 2010 tastes of minerals, citrus and pear.
(Another wine with limited availability, and so few published reviews.)
For a Splurge
There are a couple of likely candidates here, each a Fié Gris from France priced in the $20 to $30 range, and each coming laden with encomia. They are:
Domaine Goisot is considered one of the huge value/price houses in Burgundy, and by reputation their wines are always worth watching for.
Eric Chevalier is a rising star in the Loire Valley region. You really can't go wrong with either of the two splurge wines above (and they're really not that far into "splurge" prices, either).
We invite you to take a look at our Wine Bookshop. It is an extensive list of wine-related books (which you can buy direct from The Book Depository), with several that we think important highlighted and discussed.
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