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 this variety of grape at the time.
Before the 1970s, Sauvignon Blanc was given little consideration by most US winemakers, and therefore resulted in poor wines that came to be regarded with disdain by consumers. Virtually all wine of this variety at the time was overly sweet and lacked much texture or nuance. In the late 1960s, however, Robert Mondavi received a particularly fine batch of grapes and decided to attempt to turn them into a wine reaching towards the style of the great Loire Valley 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 a new name.
Since that time, the grape has become a well-respected in California, and the new 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 that bear the title Fume Blanc are modeled after the Loire Valley wines, with a more subtle elegance about them. The style 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. Its flavors tend towards tarter fruits such as gooseberry and green apple, with some tropical fruit like melon in some examples.
In the United States, the name is used as a direct synonym with Sauvignon Blanc. Though many wineries attempt to differentiate between styles by using either one name or the other, consumers should be aware that this distinction is voluntary, and not all wineries follow the practice.