Head Down Under for New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc

Glasses on a wood slab overlooking a vineyard, bay, and mountains in New Zealand.
Vineyard in New Zealand. Photo by Kushnirov Avraham.

Any time is the perfect time to enjoy a chilled, crisp, dry Sauvignon Blanc. Let's find out more about this popular white wine, by taking a virtual trip Down Under to one of the biggest Sauvignon Blanc producing countries -- New Zealand.

Planting their first commercial Sauvignon Blanc vines in the 1970s, New Zealand soon rocked the world with their stellar wine. They are the 2nd largest producer of Sauvignon Blanc behind France. When it comes to wine, we always hear about “France this” and “France that.” Let’s give another country a little limelight for a change. :)

7 Regions to Know

New Zealand is a long narrow, mountainous landmass that is made up of two islands referred to as North Island and South Island. There are 7 key regions across these two islands that produce Sauvignon Blanc. The climates vary from warm and tropical to cool which affects the flavor profiles of the wine.

New Zealand Map shows the 7 Regions for Sauvignon Blanc.
New Zealand Map shows the 7 Regions for Sauvignon Blanc.

The North Island is warmer which means the grapes will ripen quicker. This results in Sauvignon Blanc that has ripe, tropical fruit flavors like melon, nectarine, and other stone fruits along with that signature acidity and herbaceous notes.

The South Island is cooler with a longer growing cycle. This results in Sauvignon Blanc that has full fruit flavors like passion fruit, grapefruit, gooseberry, and red bell pepper along with a higher level of acidity and those signature herbaceous notes. I feel a tasting opportunity coming on!

#1: Marlborough New Zealand

Waikawa Bay in Marlborough, New Zealand
Waikawa Bay in Marlborough just north of wine country. Photo by Nigel Spiers.

Our first stop is Marlborough, New Zealand. This is where nearly 90% of New Zealand’s Sauvignon Blanc is grown and produced, making it a particularly important region to know.

Marlborough is located on the South Island along the Northern tip. The vineyards stretch inland from the sea running along the valley floors and onto the hillsides. This region is dry and sunny with large temperature shifts from day to night. All of these factors mean the grapes develop tropical fruit flavors and high acidity levels. Also, look for the signature herbaceous notes that are typical of Sauvignon Blanc.

#2: Hawke’s Bay