New Zealand established its wine reputation on Sauvignon Blanc, a variety uniquely suited to the terroir of the South Island, especially the Marlborough region. Over time, growers have diversified their white grape plantings to Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and other varieties, but Sauvignon Blanc remains king with 75 percent of total tonnage. In this article, we review the current releases of 19 New Zealand producers of white wines.
The New Zealand wine revolution began in Marlborough, and today this region and its three subregions (Wairau Valley, Awatere Valley, Southern Valleys) still account for 2/3 of the country’s vineyard plantings. The US is of increasing importance as a market for New Zealand wines, growing form 21 percent to 29 percent of all New Zealand wine exports over the past decade.
Also, see our recent article on New Zealand Pinot Noir here.
Boulder Bank 2017 Sauvignon Blanc Fitzroy Vineyard Marlborough ($16) 89 Introduced by scents of passion fruit and grapefruit, this is an honest, clean Sauvignon that shows steely citrus on the palate and a crisp finish. From the Fitzroy Vineyard located in the Rapaura district in the Omaka Valley subregion. Importer: Goldschmidt Vineyards
Brancott 2016 Pinot Grigio Marlborough ($12) 87 Showing a ripe nectarine and spice nose, the Pinot Grigio is full on a lightly flavored palate. Served ice cold, it’s a good summer sipping wine.Brancott 2016 Flight Song Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough ($13) 86 A low-calorie, low alcohol (8.9%) wine meant for briny oysters with its dried herbal and wet earth notes complemented by bright lime-like acidity. Brancott 2016 Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough ($12) 89 Outstanding value! Showing and understated white flowers, pear and mineral nose, this subtly flavored Sauvignon is somewhat austere but reveals Sancerre-like minerality. Brancott 2016 B Sauvignon Blanc Letter Series Marlborough ($27) 92 Profusely aromatic, dense and complex, winemaker Patrick Materman has made one of our favorite Sauvignons of the tasting. Shows fresh garden herbs and goose berry with touches of passion fruit and chalky minerals. 12% fermented in French oak, 1% new with fruit coming from the southern side of the Wairau Valley. Importer: Pernod-Ricard USA
Clifford Bay 2016 Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough ($14) 88 The Clifford Bay Sauvignon Blanc offers aromas of garden herbs and passion fruit that are mirrored on a tangy, fruit forward palate. It has a lingering, rich finish. Sourced from estate and purchased fruit grown in the Awatere and Wairau Valleys. Importer: Foley
Esk Valley Estate 2017 Oak Valley Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 89 Showing a multi-faceted bouquet of grapefruit, lime and gooseberry, the Oak Valley Sauvignon Blanc is bright and fresh with green citrus and herbs dominating the palate. Finishes crisply with good acidity.
Forefathers 2017 Wax Eye Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough ($19) 90 Fresh, clean and pure, this Sauvignon reveals lime citrus and melon scents. Guava, omelo and passion fruit show on the medium weight palate, with a lingering finish accented by chalky minerals. From a single vineyard in the Brancott subregion. Importer: Goldschmidt Vineyards
Greywacke 2014 Chardonnay Marlborough ($39) 92 This well-oaked Chardonnay is outstanding. Smoke, vanilla bean, and pear tart show on the nose, while the palate reveals hints of hazelnut and ripe stone fruit. Beautifully balanced with bright, crisp acidity and rich, lingering flavors on the finish. Matured in 20% new French barriques for 18 months, the wine goes through full malo but remains vivacious. A blend of vineyards in diverse terroir. Greywacke 2017 Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough ($23) 90 This mineral infused Sauvignon Blanc offers an intriguing floral/herbal nose and a stony palate of lime and lemon that persists on a long, focused finish. A well-balanced, vivacious wine. Sourced from several vineyards. Greywacke 2015 Wild Sauvignon Marlborough ($29) 91 This Sauvignon falls in the flinty mineral camp with understated aromas and flavors but an appealing stony palate feel. It evolves in the glass, showing citrus and herbal nuances and an elegant demeanor. Matured in mostly neutral oak with 2/3 of the wine going through malo. An outstanding effort by winemaker Kevin Judd. Importer: Old Bridge Cellars
Grove Mill 2016 Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough ($15) 89 Light yellow straw. Offering green citrus and rich passion fruit aromas and flavors, the Grove Mill Sauvignon Blanc is a cut above other wines in this price category. It offers leesy minerals on the palate that linger long on the finish. 5% of the wine is fermented in French oak; the fruit mostly comes from lower Wairau Vineyards including Grove Mill’s flagship vineyard 17 Valley. Importer: Foley
Huia 2017 Pinot Gris Marlborough 89 Pale eye of the partridge color. Showing an appealing floral and citrus nose, this Pinot Gris is full and fat with an earthy, dried herbal note that adds complexity and makes it an excellent food wine for white meats. From certified organic vineyards with two pickings about a week apart. Huia 2017 Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 90 Clean, bright mineral and light citrus shows on the nose of this easy drinking, lightly flavored but clean and delicious wine. There’s a nice mineral-like extract on a prolonged finish.
Hunky Dory 2017 Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 87 Made with organic grapes, the fruit forward Hunky Dory Sauvignon Blanc is dry with tart acidity and fresh, light citrus flavors. Finishes clean but on the short side. Hunky Dory 2016 Tangle Marlborough 86 A blend of organically grown Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer and Riesling, this blend offers light citrus and herbal scents, a balanced palate that mirrors the bouquet, and a rather short finish.
Innocent Bystander 2017 Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough ($15) 88 This is an easy drinking wine showing pleasant grapefruit and lime zest aromas. It offers moderate acidity and a good, lingering Finnish. Importer: Old Bridge Cellars
Loveblock 2014 Pinot Gris Marlborough ($22) 89 Light aromas of flowers and tropical fruit give way to a crisp attack and a medium weight palate, also showing tropical fruit along with stone fruit notes, with crisp acidity and good length. Loveblock 2017 Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough ($22) 89 A bouquet of white flowers and citrus introduces this focused, mineral rich wine, finishing with touches of lime and passion fruit. Importer: Terlato Wines
Peter Yealands 2017 Pinot Gris Marlborough ($15) 90 Sweet scents of orchard fruit and flowers introduce the Pinot Gris, leading to a balanced and flavorful palate of honeyed pear, and honeydew melon with hints of orange and almond. The wine is round in the mouth with vibrant acidity and a persistent finish. Sourced from the Awatere Valley. Well done. Peter Yealands 2017 Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough ($15) 90 Showing an effusive perfume of grapefruit and passion fruit, this is a beautifully balanced, flavorful and elegant wine. It has a silky texture, perfect acidity, and clean and complex, slightly tropical flavors. Very well done! Importer: Palm Bay Imports
Scott 2017 Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 88 This is a gutsy Sauvignon in the traditional style with assertive aromas and flavors of garden herbs, gooseberry, and asparagus and a mouthfilling, balanced palate. Finishes with tart acidity.
Seresin Estate 2016 Momo Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough ($18) 88 Made from certified organic fruit from several vineyards, the Momo Sauvignon is crisp and light with a balanced palate that finishes very dry with chalky mineral notes. Estate 2016 Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough ($22) 91 An outstanding Sauvignon, especially for the price, the Seresin is a blend of 95% Sauvignon and 5% Semillon from 18 different parcels of organically certified (most are also certified biodynamic) vines that are separately fermented with 15% matured in used oak barriques. Light yellow straw in color, the wine reveals passion fruit and fresh asparagus with light citrus notes. The palate is creamy, rich, and superbly balanced. Importer: The Sorting Table
Tiki 2015 Chardonnay Hawke’s Bay ($15) 88 Showing scents of yellow apple and almond, this Chardonnay offers good value. It offers ripe fruit with vanilla bean and no noticeable residual sugar. It goes through full malo and sees some French oak. Best served well chilled. Tiki 2016 Estate Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough ($15) 91 Tiki definitely over-performs in its price category. This Sauvignon Blanc is profusely aromatic with hints of jasmine and densely flavored of ripe tropical fruit with some residual sugar and a long, rich finish. Bright acidity gives it a refreshing personality. Tiki 2015 Maui Pinot Gris Marlborough ($13) 90 Yellow gold. This Pinot Gris is done in the ripe, late harvest style and shows beautiful fragrances of dried stone fruit, ripe mango and honeysuckle. The palate is also packed with rich flavor and enough acidity to give a dry finish with nice uplifting acidity. This wine wins our award for best value in New Zealand wines. An incredible wine for the price! Tiki 2016 Maui Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough ($) 88 Light yellow straw. Revealing notes of stone fruit, dried herbs, and earth on the nose that are mirrored on the palate, this is a crunchy, mineral infused wine with bright acidity and a refreshing character. Finishes medium long. Tiki 2015 Pinot Gris Marlborough ($15) 90 A very good wine for the price, this Pinot Gris is on the riper side with emphatic notes of sweet, honeyed orchard fruit, but there’s also decent acidity, resulting in a very flavorful, easy to drink wine. Have it with baked chicken, roast pork, or spicy Asian dishes. Evan Ward is Tiki’s winemaker. Importer: USA Wine West
Vavasour 2016 Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 90 Redolent of white grapefruit on the nose with a light passion fruit touch. The palate offers a bright, fresh attack with a repeat of grapefruit flavor and lingering minerality and richness on the finish. Especially good for the price. Sourced from the Awatere Valley.
Villa Maria 2017 Bubbly Sauvignon Blanc New Zealand 88 This is a fun, sparkling wine that would be attractive to many consumers. Lightly carbonated, it has good acidity, a touch of sweetness, and pleasing fruit aromas and flavors. Think of it as a fruity alternative to a “dry” Prosecco. Villa Maria 2017 Sauvignon Blanc Private Bin Marlborough 90 Green asparagus and passion fruit scents introduce this well-crafted Sauvignon Blanc. The wine is balanced with vibrant acidity, attractive fresh flavors, and a stony citrus and mineral finish. Importer: Ste Michelle Wine Estates
VinUltra 2017 Little Beauty Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough ($25) 89 Extroverted fruity nose accented by citrus and passion fruit, this is a densely flavored and balanced wine with a prolonged, fresh finish. Delicious. From a single vineyard in Waihopai Valley in the Southern Valleys subregion. VinUltra 2017 Pounamu Sauvignon Blanc Special Selection Marlborough ($17) 89 Intriguing scents of passion fruit and green herbs introduce this well made wine. The palate is richly flavored with excellent acidity and freshness and a lingering finish that reflects the nose. Well done, winemaker Eveline Fraser! Importer: USA Wine West
Wairau River 2017 Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough ($17) 88 One of the more assertively fragrant Sauvignon Blancs we had in this tasting, the Wairau River offers an unabashedly traditional Sauvignon Blanc with gooseberry, asparagus and kiwi on the nose. The fruit-forward palate is a bit more subdued with tangy citrus complementing the gooseberry and offering racy acidity, finishing dry. A wonderful pairing for briny oysters. The Wairau River winery was founded by Phil and Chris Rose in 1978. Its wines are all from estate vineyards located on the banks of the Wairau River. Importer: Terlato Wines