The Weekly Walla Walla Wine Word for Dummies: Fumé Blanc
First of all, there is no such grape variety as Fumé Blanc. The name is simply an approved synonym for Sauvignon Blanc, a grape with strong roots from the Bordeaux region of France.
However, no disrespect to Robert Mondavi, who created the name in 1968, as his effort was noble during a time when we, American wine consumers, were trying to find acceptance and understanding of wine. Instead of copyrighting or trade marking the name, Mondavi offered the name to
anyone wanting to be progressive and market a dry Sauvignon Blanc.
Fumé translates to "smoke," and Fumé
Blanc", derived from Pouilly-Fumé, a dry white produced from Sauvignon Blanc in the Loire Valley in France. Pouilly-Fumé receives its name from the grapes that are coated with a smoke-colored gray bloom, as well as the white fog that often lays over the Loire Valley.
However, the name Fumé does not necessarily mean smoky in the aroma or flavor profile of the Sauvignon Blanc grape or the wine. Other than the possibility of barrel fermenting or oak barrel aging, oak doesn't have to be used at all in the fermenting or aging process and Mondavi still welcomed winemakers to use the name. During this time frame of finding ourselves in the world of wine, the name was frequently used by wineries as a way to gain shelf space in the supermarkets. It's important to note that the term is only used on American wines.