Both Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc make friendly, easy-drinking white wines. But what’s the difference between them?
Chenin Blanc offers various wine styles, from dry to dessert, expressing pear, melon, and citrus with a light body. Sauvignon Blanc, from the Loire, creates aromatic dry wines with gooseberry, passionfruit, and citrus notes. It’s more powerful and widely accessible, ideal for those on a budget.
Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc are both delicious white wines, but they have some key differences in terms of their history and wine characteristics.
Here’s what you need to know about Chenin Blanc vs Sauv Blanc.
- Where Are Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc From?
- What’s the Difference Between Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc Wines?
- Sauvignon Blanc Flavors
- Chenin Blanc Flavors
- What is sweeter Chenin Blanc or Sauvignon Blanc?
- Which is drier: Chenin Blanc or Sauvignon Blanc?
- Chenin Blanc vs. Sauv Blanc Alcohol Content
- Which Is More Expensive: Chenin Blanc versus Sauvignon Blanc
- Which is better Sauvignon Blanc or Chenin Blanc?
- Chenin Blanc vs. Sauv Blanc for Cooking
- What’s the Serving Temperature for Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc?
- Final Thoughts: Chenin Blanc vs Sauvignon Blanc
- Thirsty for More?
Where Are Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc From?
Like Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc also comes from the Loire Valley, France. This hugely popular white wine grape now grows around the world in all major winegrowing regions, including throughout the US, and perhaps most well-known, New Zealand.
Fun Wine Fact: Grape researchers believe it’s a sibling of Chenin Blanc.
What’s the Difference Between Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc Wines?
Chenin Blanc is known as a versatile white wine that can be made into any wine style – dry, off-dry, sparkling, or even sweet. Chenin has a light body, that’s often soft with a pear and citrus core. Sauvignon Blanc is almost always made into a dry white wine. Sauvignon Blanc has a light body, steely high acid, and distinctive, powerful aromatics that leap out of the glass. Both are light to medium-bodied and will be pale lemon in color.
Helpful Tip:Here’s a 30-second tasting tip to help you identify the fruits and floral notes you’re smelling in white wine.
The word “Sauvignon” has its roots in savage – as in the Cabernet Sauvignon or Sauvignon Blanc – these are aggressive wines. Not in a bad way, just in a unique way.
Underripe Sauvignon Blanc grapes, or if the grapes are grown in cooler regions, can have grassy, green pepper, or even asparagus notes. Some wine drinkers love this expression of Sauvignon Blanc.
Others, not so much. It depends on your sensitivity to these flavors.
You may be one of those sensitive wine drinkers who just don’t enjoy Sauvignon Blanc because of its savage nature – or those green notes.
That’s fine. Stick with Chenin Blanc.
Sauvignon Blanc Flavors
Here’s a full post on Sauvignon Blanc wine if you’re curious.
Chenin Blanc Flavors
- Tropical Fruit
Helpful Tip: Here’s a deep dive into what Chenin Blanc tastes like that will give you a full overview of the range of styles and flavors this little white grape can off you.
What is sweeter Chenin Blanc or Sauvignon Blanc?
Chenin Blanc can make off-dry and sweet white wines. Sauvignon Blanc is almost always made into a dry white wine. Some Sauvignon Blanc winemakers will add a little sugar to their wine to balance out that screaming high acidity.
High acid paired with Sauv Blanc’s intense, pure, juicy fruits can trick your taste buds into thinking the wine is sweet, even if the wine is dry.
This is one reason why Sauvignon Blanc is so popular.
It’s worth noting that sweetness can vary depending on the specific winemaking techniques used, or even the region where the grapes are grown.
Helpful Tip: Here’s a full rundown of sweetness in wine that’s useful if you’re trying to figure out if your wine’s sweet (or not).
Which is drier: Chenin Blanc or Sauvignon Blanc?
Both Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc make dry white table wines. Chenin Blanc is also used to make off-dry white wines, and this is a key difference between these two grapes. If you see any of the following words on a Chenin Blanc wine label, then it is off-dry or sweet:
Chenin Blanc vs. Sauv Blanc Alcohol Content
Almost all Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc dry white table wines will have medium alcohol (11%-14% ABV). The level of alcohol in Chenin Blanc vs Sauvignon Blanc is directly related to the growing climate. Warmer regions mean riper grapes and more sugar accumulation that can be fermented into alcohol (higher alcohol wines). If you’re concerned about alcohol content, then choose wines that are from cooler growing regions.
But where to start?
Luckily, the Loire Valley, France, is known for its cooler climate, so explore Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc from places like Vouvray (Chenin), Anjou-Saumur (Chenin), Pouilly-Fuisse (Sauv), and Quincy (Sauv).
Helpful Wine Shopping Tip: Hotter growing climates help grapes accumulate more sugar. More sugar means more alcohol. Higher alcohol wines have more body. So, a high-alcohol Sauvignon Blanc (14.6% ABV), will be heavier than a lower-alcohol Chenin Blanc (12.5% ABV). Reading wine labels can help you pick out the wine style you want: heavier or lighter?
Which Is More Expensive: Chenin Blanc versus Sauvignon Blanc
Chenin Blanc isn’t as popular or as widely grown as Sauvignon Blanc, so it tends to be more expensive when made into a single varietal wine (not a bulk white wine). Sauvignon Blanc enjoys huge popularity with wine drinkers and, as a result, you’ll find single varietal Sauvignon Blanc at all price points – from extreme-value wines up to super-premium bottles.
Don’t be fooled!
Both Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc can sell for hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars if made by prestige producers – a sign that both wines are worthy of your attention.
Which is better Sauvignon Blanc or Chenin Blanc?
Both wines pair with similar foods, so the better wine comes down to what you’re looking for in your glass. If you prefer high-acid white wine with intense perfume, then Sauvignon Blanc is better for you. If you enjoy white wines with a softer, rounder mouthfeel and more subtle fruit, then Chenin Blanc is better. If you want a slightly sweet wine, then an off-dry Chenin Blanc is what you’re looking for.
Chenin Blanc vs. Sauv Blanc for Cooking
Sauvignon Blanc wines are generally more affordable and more widely available, making them a better choice for cooking. However, if you’re going to be drinking the wine too, then choose the wine that you want to drink. Both are interchangeable for cooking.
What’s the Serving Temperature for Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc?
Both Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc are served chilled, but Sauvignon Blanc is generally served at a lower temperature than Chenin Blanc. Put both wines in your refrigerator the day before you drink them (at least 3 hours before you open the bottle).
- If you’re drinking Chenin Blanc, take the bottle out 10-15 minutes before pouring.
- If you’re drinking Sauvignon Blanc, take the bottle out, pour yourself a glass, and enjoy immediately.
- If either wine seems closed (not very aromatic), give it a good swirl and let it warm up for 5-10 minutes.
Helpful Tip: To chill or not to chill? This is always a wine question – so I put together this post that goes over what wines to chill and for how long that anyone can use!
Final Thoughts: Chenin Blanc vs Sauvignon Blanc
Chenin Blanc wines offer a more nuanced, rounded white wine drinking experience. If you enjoy light fruited white wines, then stick with Chenin Blanc.
If you’re into bold, zesty white wines that jump out of the glass, then Sauvignon Blanc is the wine for you. Each wine brings its own unique character to your drinking experience.
A great way to get started with these two wines is by doing a side-by-side comparison. Pick up two bottles of similarly-priced wines: 1 bottle of Chenin Blanc and 1 bottle of Sauvignon Blanc. Pour yourself a glass of each, side-by-side, and taste them slowly.
- Can you smell the difference in the power of the aromas? (Sauvignon Blanc should be more powerful)
- Can you feel the difference in the wine’s acidity? (Sauvignon Blanc should have more acid and make your mouth pucker more than the Chenin Blanc)
- Can you tease out the different fruit flavors?
This is the best way to understand the differences between these two beloved wine grapes.
Thirsty for More?
If you’re buying Sauvignon Blanc, chances are very, very good it’s from New Zealand. Here’s a post that explains what’s up with New Zealand Sauv Blanc.
Doing side-by-side tastings, or wine flights, are the best way to learn about wine. So, I wrote a post on wine flights, and what they are, and include 16 ideas for your next wine flight. Go check out wine flights here.