When you walk down the aisles of your local wine or liquor store, you may find yourself in the Sauvignon Blanc or California Whites section and find yourself looking at a bottle of Fumé Blanc. This may provoke the question, “what the heck type of wine is this?”
Fumé Blanc is a made-up marketing name created by the Robert Mondavi. In his memoires, A Harvest of Joy, he explained that he created the name for two reasons. He wished to disassociate his winery’s drier, somewhat Loire-style, Sauvignon Blancs from the unpopular sweeter version that was readily available in California. The second reason is that he found "Fumé Blanc" to be far easier to say than Sauvignon Blanc, thus more approachable to consumers. The name was a jumble of the Loire Valley (France) term “les blancs fumés.”
To test the phonetic appeal of the term, they released the wine in test batches. The first was labeled with Sauvignon Blanc and the second with Fumé Blanc. Guess which term sold more?
This marketing innovation turned out to be pure genius. Robert Mondavi Winery saw a substantial increase in Fumé Blanc sales after the rebranding.
Even to this day, Mondavi Fumé Blanc continues to be a terrific California Sauvignon Blanc for a very reasonable price (around $20). A couple other Fumé Blanc names to keep an eye out for are: Chateau St. Jean ($13) and Grgich Hills ($30).