The world can’t seem to get enough Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. The best examples from the last two vintages, 2020 and 2021, exemplify this popular style through bright fruit, mouthwatering acidity and a slippery texture. These traits are particularly welcome after much of the under-ripeness seen in the difficult ’17 and ’18 vintages. There’s only one problem: demand has outstripped supply. In 2021, New Zealand sold more wine than it made, forcing wineries to sell off stocks of previous vintages to meet demand in the international market.
Why the shortage? The culprit is likely climate change. Marlborough is dry—too dry— and yields have been down since 2017. At the start of the 2021 vintage, Marlborough producers, entering their third year of drought, needed the weather to cooperate. It didn’t. There were frosts and freezing temperatures in the spring which affected flowering and bunch size; and there was dry, windy weather in the summer which meant small berries that were low on juice. This resulted in a 21% lower crop than in 2020, and the smallest harvest since 2015.
The good news is while supplies are more limited than in the past, the U.S. is New Zealand’s largest export market and well-priced, high-quality Sauvignon Blanc still abounds.
For the 2020s, there’s a complex yet refreshing wine from top biodynamic producer Clos Henri; a passion fruit, green tea and tarragon-led Sauvignon from Astrolabe; and a refreshingly ripe bottling from one of New Zealand’s most well-known names, Kim Crawford.
As the 2020s begin to be replaced by the ’21s, watch for harmonious wines from the likes of Scott Base; from highly consistent producer, Nautilus; and from well-known estate Giesen in the sub-$15 category.
Note: The ’21s may be full of promise, but they’re still young. Snap them up before they’re gone from shelves but leave them for six months for the best enjoyment.
Astrolabe 2020 Sauvignon Blanc (Awatere Valley); $25. Buy on Wine.com. From the cool, coastal Awatere Valley, this layered, textural Sauvignon demonstrates the power of a good vintage and of paying a bit extra for Marlborough Sauvignon… SEE SCORE AND FULL REVIEW
Clos Henri 2020 Petit Clos Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough); $18. Buy on Vivino. Despite being a lower priced bottle from younger vines than Henri’s flagship Sauvignon, this is a delicious and complete drop… SEE SCORE AND FULL REVIEW
Kim Crawford 2020 Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough); $18. Buy on Wine.com. Following on from a strong 2019 vintage, the 2020 bottling from this well-known label also hits the mark… SEE SCORE AND FULL REVIEW
Nautilus 2021 Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough); $21. Buy on Vivino. Still very young, the latest Sauvignon from this consistent producer takes its time opening, but when it does it offers aromas of lime and guava underpinned by white spice and snow peas….SEE SCORE AND FULL REVIEW
Rubus 2021 Sauvignon Blanc (Waipara Valley); $20. Find on Wine-Searcher. From the Waipara Valley just north of Christchurch, this strikes a balance between fruity and vegetal… SEE SCORE AND FULL REVIEW
Tora Bay 2020 Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc (Martinborough); $15. Find on Wine-Searcher. There’s quite a bit of sweaty onion reduction to start here, but as it opens in the glass, the zingy passion fruit, citrus, dried herb and tomato stem notes float to the fore… SEE SCORE AND FULL REVIEW