by Fred McMillin
for September 23, 1998


Birth of a Blanc


1966—Robert Mondavi opens his new winery. He has a substantial supply of Sauvignon Blanc grapes, but knows the wine they produce does not sell well. What to do?

The Loire—Robert Mondavi thought about the sterling white wines of the Upper Loire, made from the Blanc Fume (Sauvignon Blanc).

The Rest of the Story

Fume BlancThe Mondavi solution was to change the taste and change the name. So, he added cold fermentation to intensify the fruit flavors, and added oak aging to provide spice and smoke. As for the new name, he reversed Blanc Fume. Robert Mondavi Fume Blanc was born!

What did the critics think? The revered Brit, Harry Waugh, said it was the equal of the Loire Blanc Fume. Critics Hannum and Blumberg said the 1967 was "among the two or three best dry Bordeaux-type white wines we have ever tasted." The latest release is the 1996, in a handsome frosted bottle to celebrate the wine's 30th birthday. Like the early versions, cold fermentation and oak contact are still used. There have been further innovations however...whole cluster crushing adds even more bright fruit flavors...10% Semillon has been introduced to contribute hints of melon...and to avoid losing the tasty results, the wine is no longer filtered.

The Wine

1996 Fume Blanc, Napa Valley
Robert Mondavi Winery
Food Affinity—Nothing better than the winery's recommendation of matching it with cracked crab and sourdough French bread.
Contact—The office of Public Relations Veep Nancy Light, (707) 251-4487.
Price—$12 range


Sauvignon Blanc was not the only name changed by Robert Mondavi in 1966. He also changed the pronounciation of the family name. It had always been mon-DAVE-ee. Robert changed to mon-DAH-vee. Credit: James Conaway's Napa, Charles Sullivan's Napa Wine.

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College and is Northern California Editor for American Wine on the Web. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.



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