What Makes New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc So Good?
By Laura Fagan Published April 2023
New Zealand may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of wine country, however, this small island nation has been quietly revolutionizing the wine industry with its stunning sauvignon blancs. With a crisp acidity and vibrant tropical fruit flavors, New Zealand sauv blanc is a wine that has captivated palates across the globe. New Zealand's wine, now a flagship export, proudly joins the ranks of the country's other prized gifts to the world such as kiwifruit, sheep, The Shire, Russell Crowe, and of course, all those infamously thick-thighed rugby players.
But what makes New Zealand's sauvignon blanc so distinct and delicious? Our wine experts are ready to spill the tea on what positions this small but mighty country at the top of the sauv game over countries who have centuries of winemaking experience. In short, it all comes down to the unique climate, the soil diversity and varied winemaking techniques that combine to create a distinctive sauv style with razor-sharp acidity and layers of flavor. The science behind the sensational New Zealand sauvignon involves stainless steel fermentation, high levels of UV light across the islands and the cool coastal nights that allow for long ripening periods without compromising acidity.
The truth is, the varietal owes its success to New Zealand’s interest and expertise in sauvignon blanc – they’ve turned the once ignored grape into a global star. So, join Nathan and Paul as they share the secrets behind what makes New Zealand's sauvignon blanc so phenomenal and then read on to check out their top selections.
90 points, 2020 vintage
For a refined sauvignon blanc pick, Paul recommends Jules Taylor. He explains that Jules started as the winemaker at Kim Crawford, but then ventured out on her own to create this stunning label. With its bright acidity and zesty citrus flavors, this wine is the perfect choice for a picnic or a relaxing evening on the patio. You'll love its subtle notes of passionfruit and gooseberry, which give it a unique character and make it a standout among other sauvignon blancs. Pair it with fresh seafood or a salad with goat cheese and enjoy the perfect balance of flavors.
91 points, 2020 vintage
From the South Island, Eradus is another top sauv pick from our wine expert Nathan. He reveals that this sauvignon blanc is a complex and delicious option from the Awatere Valley. It's celebrated for its bright, zesty character and expressive aromatics, which makes it a great choice for summertime sipping. With lively acidity and flavors of gooseberry and grapefruit, this wine is the perfect accompaniment to lighter foods and dishes like seafood or salads. Eradus is also sustainably produced by a family-owned winery showcasing the best of the terroir.
90 points, 2021 vintage
Oyster Bay is the #1 New Zealand wine brand in the world, so it’s no surprise that their sauvignon blanc made our list. This label is a classic New Zealand wine that's perfect for any occasion or meal. With its lively notes of gooseberry, lime and tropical fruit, this wine ticks all the boxes. The crisp acidity and refreshing finish make it a perfect pairing for countless dishes and light appetizers. Grab a bottle (or two) to enjoy a glass on a sunny afternoon, the pool deck or share a bottle with friends at your next gathering.
This expert pick is packed with all the signature qualities that make Kiwi sauv blanc so special - think bright, zesty citrus flavors and a refreshing minerality. The hints of passionfruit and grapefruit round out the flavor profile and the bright acidity makes it the perfect pairing for creamy pasta dishes and spice-forward flavors. Try this pour for relaxed, daytime drinking or to serve at your next barbeque.
Sea Pearl Sauvignon Blanc is a crisp and refreshing wine from the stunning Marlborough region. With its distinctive New Zealand qualities, this wine boasts the warm vibrant notes of tropical fruits, ripe citrus and a subtle hint of herbaceousness. On the palate, it is zesty and lively, leaving a refreshing finish. Our wine experts suggest serving this wine with shrimp, clams or light cheeses for a perfect match. It's also a great option for warm weather sipping and pairs exceptionally well with spicy Thai and Asian dishes.
90 points, 2022 vintage
Our next featured wine perfectly embodies the vibrant flavors of New Zealand sauvignon blanc. With notes of rich, tropical fruits and a hint of grassy herbs, this wine is the ideal pick for warm summer evenings or lazy weekends spent along the coast. Our wine experts recommend pairing it with lobster (you guessed it!) or other fresh seafood dishes like grilled shrimp or a classic seafood pasta.
Our final featured wine falls right in line with the classic Marlborough style boasting crisp tropical fruit and gooseberry flavors. This wine shares its name with the silver Moki fish that inhabits the waters off New Zealand. Both the flashy fish and the wine shine in their own unique way. For the amazing value price, Silver Moki is a hidden gem that can be beautifully paired with pork dishes, shellfish or soft cheeses.
New Zealand has risen to the top of sauvignon producing countries while setting a hard-to-beat standard for the varietal. What’s more impressive is that the country just started planting sauv grapes in the late 1900s. Today, the grape dominates the country’s production making up 79% of their total white varieties planted to produce 23% of the world’s sauvignon blanc. Looking ahead, it's clear that New Zealand sauvignon blanc will continue to evolve and captivate wine enthusiasts. Kiwi winemakers are experimenting with new techniques and styles, such as barrel-fermented sauvignon blanc or blends using other grape varieties. And with New Zealand’s ongoing commitment to sustainability, you can feel good about choosing sauvignons from this eco-friendly country.