Your Quick Guide to New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc

Learn where the majority of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc comes from and the bottles that express the country's unique terroir.
Photo by Meg Baggott

We can’t get enough of this extroverted sipper. It burst onto the scene with heady-fruit and green-vegetable aromas and crisp acidity in the mid-1980s, and there’s one region in particular to thank: Marlborough.

Tucked into the northeast corner of New Zealand’s South Island, Marlborough grows the lion’s share of the country’s Sauvignon Blanc across two subregions, Wairau Valley and Awatere Valley. Both are relatively dry and maritime influenced, but the cooler, more seaward Awatere produces slightly more herbaceous, saline Sauvignon than Wairau.

Elsewhere in New Zealand, the style changes with the terroirs, but not drastically. Sauvignon Blanc is produced across the country, from Nelson to Canterbury and Wairarapa to Gisborne.

Toward the bottom of the South Island, Central Otago’s semi-continental climate leads to wines with more gunflint and herbal tones overlain with pineapple and passion fruit. About midway  up the east coast of the North Island in Hawke’s Bay, warmer, milder growing conditions produce unsurprisingly riper, richer wines.

Ultimately, though, winemaking choices affect the final wine most noticeably. Try Sauvignon aged in oak and/or on its lees and compare it to one picked early­ and sent straight to stainless. Sample “naturally” made, cellar worthy or sparkling Sauvignon Blanc. You’ll be sipping your way to Sauvignon Blanc savviness in no time.

An Eco-Friendly Wine Tour of New Zealand's South Island

Eight bottles to try

Villa Maria Private Bin (Marlborough); $14. A Marlborough standard-bearer from one of the country’s most well known names.

Mt. Beautiful (Canterbury); $16. A textured, bright-fruited expression from south of Marlborough.

Glover Family Zephyr (Marlborough); $17. An emerging, family-run winery with vineyards right by the sea in the Awatere Valley.

Trinity Hill (Hawke’s Bay); $17. A delicate, mineral-driven Sauvignon from one of Hawke’s Bay’s leaders.

Clos Henri Petit Clos (Marlborough); $18. Terroir expression at its finest from a boutique biodynamic producer.

Ata Rangi (Martinborough); $20. Barrel fermentation, skin contact and partial malolactic fermentation make a complex wine.

Hillersden Sparkling (Marlborough); $22. A fruity Prosecco-style bubbly from a relatively small, family-run operation.

Greywacke Wild (Marlborough); $29. Wild yeast, lees stirring and oak make for a full-bodied expression.

Published on February 11, 2019
Topics: Wine and Ratings
About the Author
Christina Pickard
Contributing Editor

Reviews wines from Australia and New Zealand

A native of New York who has spent years living abroad in London and Perth, Australia, Pickard’s work has previously appeared in publications such as Australia’s Gourmet Traveller Wine, James Halliday’s Wine Companion, Scoop Magazine, Decanter and Wine Enthusiast. She was the co-host of the popular podcast, The Crush, as well as a regular presenter on various TV shows. Pickard is excited to share her vast knowledge and great passion for the wines of both Australia and New Zealand.

Email: cpickard@wineenthusiast.net




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