Why Do Some Sauvignon Blancs Taste Like Green Pepper?

Family Genes

The green pepper characteristic is like a gene found in people. We have different eye color, hair, and an array of traits that are passed down through families over generations. In many regards, grape vines function in similar ways.

Sauvignon Blanc is a really old grape that has been around for along time. For many years, rumor had it that Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc hooked up many moons ago and produced a baby affectionately named “Cabernet Sauvignon.” Later research revealed that they are most likely the parents of this cute and yummy little offspring!

But what is even more interesting is that all 3 family members display varying levels of the “green pepper” gene- Methoxypyrazines.


Methoxypyrazines are a compounds found in some vegetables, fruits and nuts. Green peppers have exceptionally high amounts of this compound. Although it is not usually detected by smell, it creates a distinctive taste in foods that can make them taste like green peppers.

The entire family of Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Blanc, and Cabernet Sauvignon all have elevated levels of Methoxypyrazine when they are unripe and still developing as small berries. This flavor decreases as the grapes ripen to become rounder and fuller with sugar.

However, the green pepper flavor can still be detected in these wines, especially those made from grapes that are less ripe. The flavor is exceptionally pronounced in many New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc styles, as grapes from this region are relatively high in Methoxypyrazines.

So the next time you hear someone say their Sauvignon Blanc tastes like green pepper, this is why!

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