Tasting Challenge: New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc

This week, we’re tasting a truly iconic New World wine: New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. With this popular style, you’re going to see exactly how big of a roller coaster a seemingly simple white wine can be.

What is the Tasting Challenge? The challenge is a way to improve your wine palate each week with 34 wines from 12 countries — The Wine Tasting Challenge.

This week let’s explore a wine that shines no matter if it’s Old World or New World.

The rivalry between the Sauvignon Blanc of the Old World versus New Zealand is intense. Okay, maybe it isn’t exactly “fighting-in-the-street-there-can-be-only-one” intense, but the line in the sand has definitely been drawn.

Part of this has to do with the sheer volume that the Kiwis are growing: over 60,000 acres (24,000 hectares) of Sauvignon Blanc in an area roughly the size of Oregon.

So if you’re going to familiarize yourself with Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand is basically impossible to ignore.

With that in mind, we went with a region that New Zealand is very well known for – Martinborough. It’s the sort of place you can find wine of every quality and price level, but always screams New Zealand.

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Week 7 tasting: New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc

2019 Palliser Estate Sauvignon Blanc

Look: Pale straw.

Aromas: Grapefruit, passionfruit, gooseberry, fresh cut grass, and lime.

On The Palate: The greenest citrus ever! Almost equal parts grapefruit and grapefruit peel. A bitter herb quality, very grassy. A bit of bitterness on the finish.

Food Pairing: Immediately thought of the Pad Thai I’d recently had for dinner and mourned the fact that there wasn’t any left. Goat cheese would be outstanding. Not to mention fresh seafood.


What We Learned About Sauvignon Blanc

There is a lot going on in the glass with Sauvignon Blanc. At first, the New Zealand style of big fruit hits you in the face and you assume that’s all there is to it.

And then the green kicks in. Bitter herbs and grassy notes that make you think you ate a grapefruit, along with its leaves, stem, and maybe some of the tree’s bark.

It makes you think of the notes you often taste in Caribbean cooking, pungent herbs surrounded by the fullness of tropical fruit.

On paper, you figure it shouldn’t work, but it all blends together so beautifully.

That ripe fruit is a big part of what makes people adore New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. It’s far more boisterous and flashy than the more subtle, cold-climate styles you’ll find from France’s Loire region, for example. Which would explain why the dividing line between Old World and New World fans is so distinct.

Either way you’re dealing with a pretty unique grape that brings both the fruit and the rind in equal measure.


Now that your tastebuds are motoring at full speed, learn Where To Find The Best Sauvignon Blanc. And once you’ve found your soul-wine, hop into the comments and let us know which wine now has a special place in the cellar.

Buy the Book - Get the Course!

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Get the Wine 101 Course ($29 value) FREE with the purchase of Wine Folly: Magnum Edition.

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About Phil Keeling

I throw words at the walls of Wine Folly’s channels until something sticks, like a fistful of verbal spaghetti. I also write plays, jokes, and the occasional diatribe.