Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc: Wines To Buy, Tasting Notes & Regional Information
Last Updated on September 17, 2023.
Editor’s Note: New Zealand’s Marlborough wine region has become synonymous with the Sauvignon Blanc grape variety. In recent years, it has become the most popular New World region for the production of the grape. Unlike European regions like France’s Loire Valley (Sancerre / Touraine, in particular), Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough is often more affordable while offering zippy acidity and refreshing tropical fruit flavors that make for a very easy-drinking, crowd-pleasing white wine. Read on to learn more.
- Brief History of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc
- What are the Best Marlborough Sauvignon Blancs to Buy?
- Why Marlborough is Special for Sauvignon Blanc
- What Does Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc Taste Like?
- Food Pairing New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc
- Key Marlborough Subregions and Appellations
- Frequently Asked Questions about Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc
- Why is Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc so good?
- What are some good Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc brands to try?
- How does the price of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc compare to other white wines?
- How does the price of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc compare to other white wines?
- Where is Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc produced?
- What does Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc typically taste like?
- What foods pair well with Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc?
- What is the best temperature to serve Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc?
Brief History of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc
Marlborough, located at the northeastern tip of the South Island, boasts an idyllic landscape marked by lush hills, sun-kissed vineyards, and a cool, maritime climate. The stage was set for a wine revolution.
The story began in the 1970s when the first Sauvignon Blanc vines were planted in Marlborough. The pioneers were Montana Wines, now known as Brancott Estate, and their trailblazing spirit opened up new possibilities for the region. By the 1980s, more winemakers followed suit, eager to capture the magic of Marlborough’s Sauvignon Blanc.
It didn’t take long for the world to take notice. In 1985, a wine from Marlborough, the Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc, captured the attention of wine enthusiasts and critics. This wine showcased an intensity of flavor, a crisp acidity, and an unmistakable aroma of passionfruit and gooseberries that became synonymous with Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.
The meteoric rise of Marlborough’s Sauvignon Blanc continued through the 1990s and into the new millennium. Winemakers honed their craft, experimenting with techniques such as barrel aging and blending with other grape varieties to create unique and innovative styles. The world couldn’t get enough, and Marlborough’s wine production skyrocketed.
Today, Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is revered as one of the most popular and recognizable wine styles globally. The region’s signature varietal is celebrated for its vibrant flavors, refreshing acidity, and unmistakable New Zealand character. Through perseverance and passion, the winemakers of Marlborough have turned this once little-known grape into an international sensation, and their love story with Sauvignon Blanc continues to captivate the hearts of wine lovers worldwide.
- Cloudy Bay ($25 USD) put Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc on the map and still stands up as the classic example of the style.
- Kim Crawford ($14 USD) is another classic example widely available in the value price range. If you go much cheaper than Kim Crawford, you may end up with overcropped and diluted flavors.
- Oyster Bay ($10 USD) offers consistency year after year and is widely available across the United States. Another superb value buy and a crowd-pleaser.
- If you need a porch pounder, Newharbour, ($8 USD), Brancrott ($8 USD), and Matua ($10 USD) do the job admirably.
More About Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc to Purchase
Iconic Wineries and Their Stories
Founded in 1985, Cloudy Bay was instrumental in putting Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc on the global wine map. Their flagship wine showcases the classic Marlborough style with intense flavors and a refreshing acidity. A bottle of Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc is an excellent choice for those seeking an iconic representation of the region’s wine.
Previously known as Montana Wines, Brancott Estate is the pioneer of Marlborough’s wine industry. The winery began planting Sauvignon Blanc vines in the 1970s, paving the way for the region’s growth and success. Brancott Estate remains a key player in the industry, producing consistently high-quality wines that are true to the Marlborough style.
Dog Point Vineyard
Founded by two former Cloudy Bay employees, Dog Point Vineyard has quickly gained a reputation for producing expressive and characterful Sauvignon Blancs. Their wines showcase a balance between fruit intensity and elegant minerality, making them a popular choice among wine enthusiasts.
Up-and-Coming Producers to Watch
Established by Kevin Judd, the founding winemaker of Cloudy Bay, Greywacke has quickly gained attention for its stunning wines. Their Sauvignon Blanc showcases a unique combination of ripe fruit flavors and a refreshing, mineral-driven finish.
Jules Taylor Wines
Jules Taylor is a boutique winery producing small-batch, hand-crafted wines that reflect the terroir of Marlborough. Their Sauvignon Blanc is known for its bright fruit flavors, crisp acidity, and a distinctive herbaceous character.
Criteria for selecting a quality producer
When selecting a quality Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc producer, consider the following criteria:
Look for wineries with a proven track record for producing high-quality wines, demonstrated by positive reviews from critics, wine awards, or strong word-of-mouth recommendations.
Seek out producers that prioritize sustainable and environmentally responsible vineyard practices. This commitment to the land often translates to better-quality fruit and more expressive wines.
A quality producer should have a clear winemaking philosophy that showcases the unique characteristics of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc while respecting the grape’s natural attributes.
You can conveniently purchase wines from these top producers and more through our website at the links above and have them delivered to your door. Once you confirm a purchase, just make sure you watch tracking information as you will need to sign on delivery. Cheers to discovering and enjoying some of the best wines that Marlborough has to offer!
Why Marlborough is Special for Sauvignon Blanc
Marlborough, remarkable for its southern latitude as a wine region, is home to 88% of New Zealand’s vines and most of those vines are Sauvignon Blanc. In fact, 71% (as of 2022) of all wine from New Zealand is Sauvignon Blanc.
Marlborough’s southern latitudes contribute to cool winds and refreshing nights that allow Sauvignon Blanc to retain its crisp vibrant and refreshing acidity. Its southern latitudes also mean extended sunlight hours in the summer months (December, January, February in the Southern Hemisphere) to allow proper ripening given these cool conditions.
Not unlike Bordeaux, there is a strong maritime climate on the South Island keeping the temperature swings from night to day less dramatic than in continental regions like Burgundy, allowing the grapes to warm up and begin their ripening as soon as the sun is up. Also like Bordeaux, (a classic place for Sauvignon Blanc) there are stony soils that allow drainage and reduce the vigor of this strong and fast-growing vine.
Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough has a distinctive, if not charmingly addictive character. The high mouthwatering acidity complements rich tropical flavors contrasted by an asparagus, green grass savory character.
It can range from bone dry to subtly sweet (8g/l RS). Because it is an isolated region, stainless steel is a common aging method as shipping French casks across the sea is expensive and difficult. Stainless steel leads to distinctive fruit flavors, light to medium body, and a highly aromatic expression. We discuss Sauvignon Blanc tasting notes here in more detail (going beyond Marlborough).
It’s not too difficult to pair this wine with a range of dishes and cheeses. Some of our go-to pairings always include grilled fish, including snapper, swordfish, and mahi-mahi. Salads and fruit salads always make for palate-pleasing options.
You can also pair most New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs with sweet and savory Thai dishes, grilled chicken, and raw seafood, such as sushi and oysters.
Classic Food Pairings
Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc’s bright acidity, tropical fruit flavors, and herbaceous undertones make it a versatile companion for various dishes. Classic food pairings include seafood such as fresh oysters, steamed mussels, grilled shrimp, and seared scallops, which all complement the wine’s crisp acidity and citrus notes. The tangy, creamy texture of goat cheese pairs exceptionally well with the zesty, fruity character of Sauvignon Blanc. Green salads with a light vinaigrette dressing accentuate the wine’s herbaceous notes, making for a refreshing and balanced meal. Grilled chicken, turkey, or pork tenderloin with herbs and citrus marinades are harmonious matches for Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.
Adventurous and Modern Pairings
For those looking to explore beyond traditional pairings, consider these adventurous and modern options: Asian cuisine, such as Thai green curry, Vietnamese spring rolls, and sushi rolls with avocado and cucumber, showcase the wine’s versatility and ability to handle complex and spicy flavors. Indian dishes, like vegetable samosas and paneer tikka, can also create an exciting interplay between the wine’s acidity and the dish’s spices.
Serving Temperature and Glassware
To fully enjoy the aromatic and flavor profile of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, serve the wine chilled at a temperature between 45-50°F (7-10°C). A white wine glass with a medium-sized bowl and a slightly narrower opening will help concentrate the wine’s vibrant aromas, enhancing the overall tasting experience.
Decanting and Aeration Recommendations
Decanting is generally not necessary for young, fresh Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, as the wine is meant to be enjoyed in its youthful, exuberant state. However, if you are serving an older or more complex Sauvignon Blanc, such as one that has been barrel-aged or blended with other grape varieties, decanting for about 30 minutes can help open up the wine’s aromas and flavors, allowing them to fully express themselves.
Key Marlborough Subregions and Appellations
The Wairau Valley, situated in the heart of the Marlborough region, is one of the most prominent subregions for producing Sauvignon Blanc. Its fertile alluvial soils, combined with the region’s warm days and cool nights, create an ideal environment for the grape to thrive. Wairau Valley Sauvignon Blanc wines are known for their vibrant fruit-forward flavors, featuring zesty citrus, ripe tropical fruits, and a characteristic herbaceousness that has become the signature style of Marlborough.
To the south of the Wairau Valley lies the slightly cooler and more windswept Awatere Valley. This subregion is defined by its higher altitude and varied soils, which include silt, loam, and stony clay. Awatere Valley Sauvignon Blanc wines tend to exhibit more mineral-driven flavors, with pronounced notes of green bell pepper, fresh herbs, and sometimes a touch of saline minerality. These wines often have a distinctive acidity and structure, making them an interesting alternative to the more fruit-forward styles from the Wairau Valley.
The Southern Valleys, a collective term for several smaller valleys south of the Wairau Valley, are known for their clay-rich soils and slightly cooler climate. The Sauvignon Blanc wines from this subregion often showcase more restrained fruit flavors and a greater emphasis on texture and mouthfeel. These wines can display subtle citrus and stone fruit notes, accompanied by an underlying minerality and a touch of flintiness. The Southern Valleys offer a unique, more elegant expression of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.
Unique Characteristics and Differences of Each Subregion
Each of the key subregions in Marlborough contributes its distinct terroir, which ultimately shapes the unique characteristics of the Sauvignon Blanc wines produced there. The Wairau Valley is known for its bold, fruit-forward flavors and classic herbaceousness, while the Awatere Valley offers more structured, mineral-driven wines with pronounced green notes.
Meanwhile, the Southern Valleys are recognized for their elegant and textured Sauvignon Blanc wines that emphasize restraint and minerality. By understanding these differences, wine enthusiasts can better appreciate the diversity and complexity that Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc has to offer.
Frequently Asked Questions about Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc
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