What type of wine is Sauvignon Blanc?
Sauvignon Blanc is a white aromatic wine with notes of fresh herbs, ripe capsicum, citrus, melon, ripe gooseberry and passion-fruit. It is the fresh acid that really makes these wines special. Acid that dances across your tongue in the most enticing way.
What does Sauvignon Blanc taste like?
Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is aromatic, pungent almost explosive in its intense flavours, with a fresh, crisp, zesty acidity. It has a range of flavours from green and red capsicum through to gooseberry and tropical passion fruit characters. In warmer areas like Gisborne and Hawkes Bay, the flavours tend to be more tropical with nectarine, passionfruit and melon, while still retaining the characteristic fresh zesty notes.
This is a wine that is normally dry. However, the grape is also capable of producing some of the world’s greatest sweet wines, like the varietal Sauternes.
What to look for
Generally, in New Zealand the colour of Sauvignon Blanc wines that are less than 12 months old is very pale with a slight blush of green. As the wines get older, they develop slightly more colour but should always be bright and clear.
You should drink most New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs within 5 years of the vintage it was harvested in.
What is oaked sauvignon blanc?
Some Sauvignon Blanc is fermented in oak barrels which gives the wine a softer more mellow flavour imparting a vanillin note and a creamy texture to the wine.
Sauvignon Blanc wine prices
We are fortunate to live in the home of great Sauvignon Blanc. Most wines are available at very reasonable prices with a significant number retailing for less than $25. 86% of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is produced for export, but we are still spoiled for choice.
For a great range of New Zealand’s best Sauvignon Blancs, take a look at our Wine Finder.
Best New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc
Sauvignon Blanc compared to other wines
Sauvignon Blanc might be one of the most popular white wines in NZ but there are still a few other great whites you might like.
Sauvignon Blanc versus Pinot Gris
Sauvignon Blanc, with it’s fresh acid and herbal notes is quite similar in lots of ways to Pinot Gris. The Sauvignon will be more pungent and tend to display more flavour.
Pinot Gris is a white grape with a pinkish tinge. The berries produce a full flavoured white wine that has white peach, almond and pear flavours, no tannins, and little or no oak. Normally, Pinot Gris has a much softer acid structure than Sauvignon Blanc.
Sauvignon Blanc versus Chardonnay
Chardonnay wines produced in New Zealand and overseas often have oak-influenced flavours. This makes the wine softer, masking the primary fruit flavours, providing textural mouth-feel and giving the wine a richer non-aromatic sensation.
Sauvignon Blanc, on the other hand, is almost the complete opposite to the buttery flavours of Chardonnay.
Sauvignon Blanc versus Chenin Blanc
Chenin Blanc has a similar acid level to Sauvignon Blanc but is more creamy on the palate and stone fruit flavoured. Both are great aperitif wines to drink. Chenin Blanc creates full bodied creamy peach, citrus and melon flavoured wines which are a delight to drink and age wonderfully well.
Chenin Blanc is produced in small amounts in New Zealand. The climate is ideal but years ago it was a bulk component of ‘bag- in-the-box’wines which did nothing to entice consumers into rediscovering the wine. Hopefully we will see more well made examples appearing.
Sauvignon Blanc versus Chablis
Chablis is a Chardonnay-based wine from Northern France. Often made with little or no oak, these are wines that are often described as steely or flinty.
High acid and cooler regional fruit give Chablis a floral flavour rather than the vegetal flavours of Sauvignon Blanc. But the acidity level is often on a par with Sauvignon Blanc.
Sauvignon Blanc versus Pinot Blanc
Pinot Blanc is a white wine made from the Pinot Blanc grape that is a genetic mutation of the grape Pinot Noir. They are normally a lot less acidic than Sauvignon Blanc with aromas and flavours of apple and stone fruits.
Storing Sauvignon Blanc
Most New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is designed to be consumed within 5 years of harvest. Older wineschange their flavour and can become very vegetal and smell of canned peas.
Having said that older Sauvignon Blanc can be delicious and those made using oak barrels will usually drink well for a considerable time, at least 5 years.
Store screw-cap bottles standing upright and cork closure bottles (and you won’t find many of those in New Zealand) lying on their side in a dark cool place. Try and select a position with a stable temperature.
How long does it last once opened?
Once opened, reseal the wine and store it upright in a fridge. Once opened, Sauvignon Blanc, should last 2 to 4 days without noticeable deterioration. The more wine in the bottle, the longer it will last.
Dry Sauvignon Blanc that has become oxidised (usually from a faulty screw cap) will have more of a golden-brown hue and will have lost the bright, vibrant fruit aromas. The palate will become flat, dull and tired.
Serving Sauvignon Blanc
Sauvignon Blanc should be served ‘cool’ not icy, at about 6 to 8 degrees CIf these wines are served too cold and you lose the fruit flavours.. If storing in the refrigerator, remove about 10 minutes before serving.It is not necessary to decant Sauvignon Blanc.
Always serve in a glass that has a slightly narrower opening than bowl size and never fill the glass more than half full.
Sauvignon Blanc nutrition per 150ml glass (1 serving)
|84 calories||3.8 grams per serving|
|12.5 - 13% alc 1.25 standard drinks per serving||0.6 grams per serving|
Sauvignon Blanc pairing
Sauvignon Blanc is a great accompaniment to fresh foods. Its vibrant flavours enhance the delicacy of fresh seafood like salmon, scallops, pan fried fish, oysters and green lipped mussels.
Chicken, veal and turkey are all great foods to match, as are Indian, Thai, southern Chinese dishes and Japanese.
It’s often served with vegetables like avocado, asparagus and salads where the punchy flavours of Sauvignon Blanc really shine. Goats cheese is also a really great match for Sauvignon Blanc.
Cooking with Sauvignon Blanc
The high acidity in Sauvignon Blanc makes it a great wine to cook with. Steamed mussels in a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and salted water is a winner. It’s also great to use Sauvignon Blanc instead of vinegar when making oil and vinegar salad dressing.
Remember to always use good wine when cooking, if you wouldn’t drink a glass of the wine yourself, then don’t add it to food.
History of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc
Sauvignon Blanc has been grown throughout France for centuries, traditionally Bordeaux and Loire regions; the same places Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc were grown. The purest forms, as in the most like what we produce in New Zealand, were from the Loire Valley regions of Sancerre and Pouilly Fume.
The production of Sauvignon Blanc in New Zealand is a fascinating story and is, in many ways, a snapshot of the innovation that took place in wine production in the late 20th century.
It all started in 1969
In New Zealand, Sauvignon Blanc was first planted commercially in West Auckland in 1969 by two brothers; Ross and Bill Spence who founded Matua Valley Wines. They produced their first 400 bottles of Sauvignon Blanc for sale in 1974.
The year before, two brothers; Mate and Frank Yukich, saw the potential for Sauvignon Blanc in the Marlborough region at the top of the South Island. The Spences gave them 10 cuttings from which they produced 35,000 plants during 1973-1974. Montana Wines, later renamed Brancott Estate, went on to become New Zealand’s largest wine producer. Its growth was spectacular, producing 13,500 litres in 1961 to 6,750,000 litres in 1973. They began exporting into the UK market in the early 1980’s.
Around this time Wine journalist Bob Campbell MW wrote that the experience of drinking NZ Sauvignon Blanc:
“was like being strapped to Elle McPherson while Bungee jumping into a bottomless pit of fresh Gooseberry leaves”.
This convinced a lot of English wine consumers to try it and helped create the wine sensation it has become.
Sauvignon Blanc - a New Zealand favourite
As the largest production wine in New Zealand and the most exported wine we produce, we are fortunate to have so readily available such large quantities of Sauvignon Blanc.
With all the different labels and each one showing a variation in region, terroir and wine making style we are spoilt for choice. All have that wonderful vibrant fruit aromas and punchy freshness along with the distinctive zesty gooseberry with tropical notes.
Jim Harre Author Bio
After studying viticulture and winemaking at Hawkes Bay’s Eastern Institute of Technology, Jim worked several vintages, both in New Zealand and Internationally as a winemaker.
Identified as having a very good palate for quality assessment of wine, Jim has been a major part of New Zealand’s Wine Judging competitions for over 25 years. Now a well respected International Judge, he works as a Chair of Judges in Wine Competitions in USA, Japan, China, Australia and, of course, New Zealand.
He is also regarded as a world authority on the effect of how wine perception changes in aircraft, a panel chair at the world’s largest competition; the International Wine Challenge, held each year in London; as well as Wine Consultant to Air New Zealand. It is Jim’s love of education and teaching people about wine that makes him one of New Zealand’s most recognised Wine professionals.