March 18, 2022

Celebrate NZ's Regional Sauvignon Blanc

Hawke's Bay Sauvignon Blancs may taste different to Marlborough's, but does this make it a lesser wine? Not at all!

Cameron Douglas MS explains...

If Sauvignon Blanc was music, a song, then it would probably sound like the opening few bars of a heavy metal track, ‘I was made for loving you’ by Kiss (1979) is what’s playing in my mind right now. Not only does Sauvignon Blanc have a distinctive and very recognizable beat and rhythm, a loud bouquet, it often hits the palate with a core of energy and style that makes it, well, a bit like a heavy metal song.

So, there’s no mistaking this variety with its pungent, fresh and crunchy texture, sweet herbs, tropical fruit, peach, citrus, apple, gooseberry and grass/hay characters. These are typical of the variety grown in cool climate appellations. New Zealand’s southerly location, strong maritime influences and narrow shape gives rise to this type of cool climate needed for such intense aromas and flavors. Classified as cool climate promoting naturally higher acid levels, yet warm enough and with abundant sunlight to fully ripen the variety in almost any part of the country. Hawkes Bay, the Wairarapa, Nelson, Marlborough, North Canterbury and Central Otago have these attributes and can produce some excellent examples.

While some Sauvignon Blanc can be made in a generic style, and these wines sell well, there are regional differences to be discovered as well. For example, Hawkes Bay examples often show a riper more intense yellow peach and sweeter tropical fruit character with less herbaceous drive, while a Marlborough version can often taste of pink grapefruit, basil, thyme, passionfruit and be very herbaceous (these are just some of the descriptors). Central Otago expressions often have a mineral core, dried thyme and white peach character.

Regardless of origin and individual expression Sauvignon Blanc is a great match with foods that are light weight, high energy and with a noticeable freshness or higher acid content such as salads with radishes and apple, pickled vegetables and even oyster or mussels with fresh lemon juice.

Hawkes Bay style

Moderate climate overall - so warmer fruit flavors. These wines are typically broader in style, but maintain a citrus core then stone fruits, sweeter tropical fruits and softer green herb flavors as well as low vegetal characters. Peach, both yellow and white often used to describe these lines alongside the citrus characteristics of lemon and grapefruit. The herbaceous characters are softer and less intense than wines from Marlborough. The palate is less salty and just a little less intense than classic Marlborough expressions.

Marlborough style

Cool climate overall - so citrus and acidity then fresh tropical fruits and green herb. The 'classic' expression of wine that's built on it's powerful, pungent bouquet, laser beam like acidity giving the wines crunch and salty, powerful palate appeal. Flavors are typically citrus first, with pink grapefruit then tree fruits with apple, often green apple, then tropical fruits. Tropical fruits are often described such as mango and green melon, sometimes pineapple. Also, these wines are often described as herbaceous from fresh basil to sage, sometimes dried herb. These wines can also reflect a green bell-pepper aroma and flavors, which is often desired as well. These wines are typically drunk within two to three years of release.