New Zealand sauvignon blanc

Col-head-ZalkinIn recent years, it seems like a visit to New Zealand has rocketed to the top of nearly everyone’s travel bucket list.

And that’s no surprise. Its dramatic mountains and lush forests leading to glassy turquoise bays provide a backdrop for its vineyards that are a stark contrast to the more genteel beauty of old world wineries. It is fitting, then, that the drama of the wines made there should echo the drama of the landscape.

So if you can’t make it to New Zealand this season, know that you can at least enjoy a little piece of that spectacular countryside closer to home — for remarkably little cost.

New Zealand made its grand entrance to the wine scene in the 1980s and 1990s, to immediate acclaim. As with many New World wine regions, it rocketed onto the world stage by perfecting showstopping wines made from a single grape, in this case, sauvignon blanc.

Bold and fruity, pungent and grassy, these New World sauvignon blancs were immediately poised to give France a run for its money. The intense and easily identifiable flavors make New Zealand sauvignon blanc great for novice drinkers, while its expression of some of the most prized flavors of sauvignon blanc grapes make it a favorite among established wine critics.

Expect strong flavors of gooseberry, green apple and grapefruit, with a touch of musk to balance all that bold fruit. Vegetal flavors like nettles, grass, and asparagus add depth, while a hint of minerality brings complexity to the mix.

The fruity notes in New Zealand sauvignon blanc make it a fine match for the subtle sweetness of shellfish like clams and scallops. It also goes well with white fish, or chicken with herbs such as rosemary, mint or cilantro. They are rarely bitter and are excellent wines to drink on their own or with light appetizers, and also pair well with vegetarian dishes, as the grassy flavors perfectly complement herbal sauces and roast vegetables.

The climate in New Zealand seems optimized to get the grapes as sweet as possible without compromising acidity. The geography of this thin island nation means the vineyards are never more than 75 miles from the coast, and a maritime climate, with its accompanying cool weather, helps the grapes maintain their natural acidity.

Of all the New Zealand wine regions, none is more famous than Marlborough. Located at the northern tip of the southern island, Marlborough is a particularly dry, sunny region, with warm days tempered by cool sea breezes. It boasts some of the oldest vineyards in New Zealand, and a particularly long and productive growing season.

All of our current favorites are from the Marlborough region, where the wine industry has undergone a remarkably rapid expansion in the last 10 years, without sacrificing any of the quality for which it is known.

There are many wonderful sauvignon blancs available for less than $15, but you might want to hurry — the industry is expanding so fast that Marlborough may run soon run out of viable vineyard space, and it might not stay that way forever.

• Babich: Strong aromas of goosebery and fresh herbs, with an underlying musky nose. Flavors of grassy green apple greet you on the first sip, with gooseberry carried through on a refreshing acidity. Medium body, and a lingering crisp finish.

• Mohua: Named for a rare bird native to the south island. This wine has a beautiful platinum color, with aromas of passion fruit, guava and gooseberries. Subtly astringent, with lively grapefruit flavors mellowed by notes of honeydew melon and grass. A touch of flinty minerality adds depth.

• Momo: Pale green in color, with a rich palate of ripe tropical fruit and a crisp, dry, finish. Notes of pear and lemon zest, with a hint of chalk.

• Mt. Beautiful: Full, bold fruit flavors balance the delicate grassiness and bright minerality. With a creamy palate and lush finish, 2013 is considered a particularly good year. Certified sustainable.

• Ponga: Zesty, fruit driven, and satisfyingly crisp, with bold flavors of lime, nectarine and grapefruit, with a hint of nettles. Floral notes round out the finish. An excellent value.

You can find all of these delightful sauvignon blanc wines for purchase at our store, Old Greenwich Fine Wines, at 195 Sound Beach Avenue, Old Greenwich, or visit our website

When you stop in, we invite you to taste a number of our favorite wines while we help you find the right bottle for your palate.


Robert Zalkin is the owner of Old Greenwich Fine Wines at 195 Sound Beach Avenue. His column will be available weekly at

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