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So you are standing in the wine aisle staring at the bottles of wine on offer and trying to decide what to take home for the evening’s meal.  Do you go with what you always drink or try something different?  Two of the most common types of wine you are liable to be seeing are the sauvignon blanc and the chardonnay.  But what are the difference between the two and what works best with what food?

Head to head

Chardonnay started out in France, in the Burgundy region famous for producing so many types of wine grape.  It grows best when near another famous wine name, the Pinot Noir grape.  Aside from France, good inexpensive chardonnays come from Spain, Chile, Italy, Australia and Southern France.  For a more expensive wine, go for those from the north coast of California such as Sonoma and Napa as well as from Oregon, Jura and Cotes de Beaune in France and from New Zealand.

Sauvignon blanc also has French origins and started out in the Bordeaux and Loire regions of France where it grows best with the other big names from the region including Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  For good value wines, look to those from southern France in the Pays d’Oc region as well as Friuli Venezia-Guilia area of Italy and from Chile.  The next level of wines originate from New Zealand, Washington State, the north coast of California and the Loire Valley of France.

Taste comparison

What experts taste in wine is something that always fascinates me, though I’m not sure I will ever have the taste-ability to pick it up myself!  With Chardonnay, the primarily flavours are said to be yellow apple, starfruit, pineapple and butter as well as chalk.  It is a full bodied, dry white that is most often aged in oak, which gives is the buttery, creamy or vanilla taste.

Chardonnay flavours

Sauvignon blanc is said to feature lots of fruit flavours including gooseberry, green melon, passion fruit, white peach and grapefruit.  It is a light bodied wine that smells ‘green’ and this greenness can vary depending on how warm or cool the climate the grapes were grown.  Very expensive wines can sometimes be oak aged so will have a creamier flavour due to this.

Sauvignon blanc flavours

Food friends

Due to the buttery taste of the chardonnay, it works best with similar taste foods so creamy and delicate flavours.  Think chicken with a creamy mustard sauce, linguini or a French-style quiche as well as fish dishes such as crab cakes, shrimp or lobster.  If you aren’t a dairy person, go for nut-based sauces such as tahini or use almond milk.

Because it is all about fruit, sauvignon blanc works well with a lot more food options.  From goat’s cheese to fish tacos, Mediterranean meats with olives and lemon to chicken pot pie, the wine will work well with a host of different menu options.  It will also work well with any dish that uses cilantro, such as Vietnamese and Thai cuisine.


Wine is a matter of personal taste and there’s nothing to say that you can’t drink wine with something that it doesn’t ‘go’ with.  However there are benefits to combinations such as these that are well worth checking out – and an excuse to try more wine!