On May 5, International Sauvignon Blanc Day, raise a glass to New Zealand's flagship wine, and its continuing evolution.
The French may have given the world the term terroir – the wonderful alchemy of influences from soil and aspect and climate and winemaking that creates the unique character of a wine – but on the other side of the world, New Zealand winemakers have found their own distinctive ‘magic’ place.
Tūrangawaewae (pronounced: too-runguh-why-why) means "my place" in Māori. It describes a uniquely New Zealand approach to winemaking that includes terroir but also embraces the surrounding landscape, the characteristic climate, and the history and spirit of a place and the people who make it their home. As a concept that expresses connectedness and belonging to the land, tūrangawaewae is a creative force that is producing exciting new styles of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.
The rise of a modern classic
New Zealand is no stranger to innovations in wine. It is the place where a humble vine that grows wild (sauvage) in southwest France became a wine world superstar. As the adventurous young winemakers who planted New Zealand's first Sauvignon vines in the 1970s discovered, a happy combination of ideal climatic conditions and skilful viticulture and winemaking transformed the sauvage qualities of the grape into the characteristic "green" aromas and mouth-filling tastes of classic New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.
Success at local and international wine competitions soon followed, along with a chorus of praise from international wine critics. By the early 1990s New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc was established as the global benchmark for the style and now accounts for over 85% of wine exported from New Zealand. It is a remarkable success story that is celebrated around the world every year. May 5, 2017 marks the seventh International Sauvignon Blanc Day.
Sauvignon classics to come
Although Sauvignon Blanc is grown throughout New Zealand’s 11 wine regions, the province of Marlborough is its undisputed heartland. Located in the South Island’s northeast where broad alluvial plains rise from the coast and are sheltered by mountain ranges, Marlborough's long and steady cool-climate growing season creates Sauvignons with impressive aromas, distinctive fruit characteristics and extraordinary purity and intensity of flavours.
Like the rest of New Zealand, Marlborough's geographically diverse landscapes are spectacularly beautiful and bountiful, and wine touring here and in every region is enhanced by vibrant communities of artisan producers and excellent restaurants and cellar doors. As you visit world-famous makers of classic Sauvignon in Marlborough and beyond you will also encounter newer producers of emerging styles whose wines are often less overtly powerful but wonderfully complex in the glass. And they are still unmistakably “New Zealand”.
This International Sauvignon Blanc day then, whether you’re on the other side of the world or in a Kiwi cellar door, raise a glass of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and experience the pure taste of New Zealand. And say: tūrangawaewae.
Seven sensational Sauvignon blancs from New Zealand
- Map Maker Sauvignon Blanc 2015. A classic Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc from the Wairau Valley sub-region. Aromas of passionfruit, fresh-cut grass and grapefruit. Rich, mouth-filling tastes of guava, blackcurrant and elderflower.
- Villa Maria Reserve Wairau Valley Marlborough Sauvignon 2016. An award winning Wairau Valley classic Sauvignon with flinty tones accompanying powerful fruit aromas, citrus and tropical fruit tastes.
- From the poor, challenging soils of the cool, dry Awatere Valley sub-region of southern Marlborough emerge dramatic classic Sauvignons like Brancott Estate Terroir Series Awatere Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2016 - subtle aromas of limes, nettle and tomato leaves, citrus and passionfruit flavours.
- Auntsfield South Oaks Barrel-Fermented Sauvignon Blanc 2013. A textbook example of terroir from a Southern Valleys sub-region winery that continues the tradition of Marlborough’s first vineyard established in 1873. Oak and lees ageing add to this wine's complexity.
- Greywacke Wild Sauvignon 2014 from esteemed winemaker, Kevin Judd, illustrates the cutting-edge complexity that is possible with New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Made from Southern Valleys and Wairau Valley grapes it is aged in French oak and on the lees, and fermented with wild yeasts.
- Over the hills from Marlborough, the mild Nelson wine region produces Sauvignons with bright, pure-fruited flavours. A classic expression of its region, Kaimira Estate Brightwater Sauvignon Blanc 2015 tastes of fresh white fruit and herbs, and is certified organic.
- Rich, tropical fruit flavours are a hallmark of Sauvignons from the Hawke's Bay region of the North Island. Barrel-fermentation and lees-ageing with a touch of Semillon and Sauvignon Gris make Te Mata Cape Crest Sauvignon Blanc 2014 a complex and layered experience.