In the know

Sav-side story

New Zealand is the biggest producer of sauvignon blanc globally. We look at the future of this New Zealand staple, at home and away

On February 1st 2016, there was a gathering in Marlborough like no other. New Zealand played host to the first-ever International Sauvignon Blanc Celebration, with delegates from 18 different countries tasting 400 wines from all over the world.

There couldn’t really have been a better location for such an event. In New Zealand, 72 per cent of the wine we make is sauvignon blanc, and 86 per cent of that is exported. Marlborough is home to 35,000 of the 50,000 acres of sav grapes grown here. Revered by the likes of British wine writer Oz Clarke, among many others, New Zealand sauvignon is widely considered to be the best in the world.­

It’s a real success story for Kiwi winemakers ‑­ a light, fresh, young wine ready to drink soon after harvest and a household favourite for so many. Strange to think we didn’t even start producing it until 1979. So what does the future hold?

The popularity of sav is based largely on its accessibility. Fruity, light and a great pairing with many foods, winemakers are now looking at how to add complexity to their sauvignon blanc without narrowing the audience too much. There’s a bit of a move toward oaked varieties, which is an exciting new direction for a traditionally very clean wine, and more time on the lees is birthing a faction of sauvignon blanc with more weight and texture than we are used to. Plenty of work is happening behind the scenes of winery bistros to match vintages and styles more specifically to the menu.

Sauvignon blanc will no doubt continue to be a versatile summer wine, but more experimentation will lead to more variety across winemakers’ ranges, catering to more complex palates as well as the easy-drinking crowd.

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