New Zealand is preparing to celebrate the 10th annual International Sauvignon Blanc Day this Friday, 7 May.
Almost certainly New Zealand’s most recognised wine, Sauvignon Blanc originated in Bordeaux and initially gained recognition as an integral part of the world-famous white Bordeaux wines.
The variety then travelled from its home in France to New Zealand — where in 1969, Kiwi winemaker Ross Spence (of Matua) planted the first vines in Waimauku, West Auckland.
Marlborough cottoned on in 1973, and New Zealand quickly rose to worldwide wine glory with its punchy, zesty, never-before-seen Sauvignon Blanc style.
While it’s easy for most Kiwis to love a good sav, here’s how to widen your wine list for International Sauvignon Blanc Day…
Choose different regions
Although Marlborough is the undisputed heartland of Sauvignon Blanc, the variety is actually grown throughout New Zealand’s 10 wine regions – and each region offers something different.
Marlborough styles tend to be either herbaceous and mineral if produced in the Awatere Valley, or riper, tropical and more pungent from the main Wairau Valley.
Hawke’s Bay produces a riper, rounder style with lower acidity and rich tropical flavours due to its warmer climate.
Nelson, on the other hand, produces a style with a medley of ripe tropical fruit, alongside the more classical cool climate herbaceous elements.
And Sav produced from North Canterbury is aromatic with crisp, fresh acidity and a mineral core.
When choosing Sauvignon Blanc to add to your wine list or off-premise selection, try adding one or two Sauvignon Blancs from the above regions – as well as your Marlborough favourites – to offer consumers something different.
Try another style
When we typically think of Sauvignon Blanc, we think crisp and fruity – but there are hundreds of wineries around New Zealand – from boutique to well-established – that offer different variations for you to broaden your consumers knowledge and palate such as Barrel fermented (oak influenced).
While the majority of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is fermented in stainless steel tanks, many wineries are now choosing to use oak or burgundy barrels to create a more complex flavour.
While not necessarily adding the intense oak flavour typically found in Chardonnay, barrel fermented Sauvignon Blanc has more texture and structure than classic Sauv. Options include: Auntsfield South Oaks Barrel Fermented Sauvignon Blanc and Waipara Hills Equinox Sauvignon Blanc.
Other styles include:
Wild ferment – which uses indigenous yeast in fermentation.
Organic and biodynamic – using grapes grown without chemicals such as pesticides and herbicides.
Blended – typically a combination of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon.
Skin fermented – typically using grapes that are de-stemmed and fermented with native yeast on skins for a number of days or weeks.
While your customers may think Sauvignon Blanc is not the wine variety for them, take your time to education, promote and celebrate this Kiwi favourite on International Sauvignon Blanc Day.
- Sauvignon Blanc was commercially produced on our shores for the first time in the 1970s.
- It is the country’s most widely planted variety, and has established itself as New Zealand’s flagship wine the world over.
- Nationally, over 25,000 hectares of vineyard land are devoted to growing the grape.
- Three-quarters of all Sauvignon Blanc is planted in Marlborough (22k+ ha), followed by Hawke’s Bay (1k+ ha) and Nelson (0.6k ha).
- Sauvignon blanc comprises 72% of New Zealand’s overall wine production — and it’s 86% of what we export to the rest of the world. Total production – 302,000 tonnes.
- It’s one of the parent grapes of Cabernet Sauvignon. The other? Cabernet Franc.
- Sauvignon blanc is an excellent food-pairing wine. Depending on which style you’re pouring, you can roll with everything from Thai food and grilled chicken to salmon and pasta.
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