The 20 Best Sauvignon Blancs of 2016

by Michael Cooper / 16 December, 2016

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For countless wine lovers overseas, New Zealand is ­sau­vignon blanc, mostly from Marlborough. In 1975, when Montana planted the region’s first sauvignon blanc vines, who would have predicted that by 2016, New Zealand’s plantings of the traditional white wine variety of the Loire Valley and Bordeaux would be on the verge of overtaking France’s, or that four out of every five bottles of sauvignon blanc consumed in the UK and Australia would flow from here?

The 2016 vintage yielded a huge crop of sauvignon blanc – more than 40% more than 2015 – but a warm, sunny autumn helped ripen the heavy bunches. The wines are typically aromatic, vibrant and zesty, with fresh, ripe tropical-fruit flavours to the fore, rather than “greener”, more herbaceous notes.

Auntsfield Single Vineyard Southern Valleys Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ••••½

Estate-grown on the south side of the Wairau Valley, on the site where the region’s first wines were made in the 1870s, this wine was mostly fermented in tanks; a small percentage was handled in old oak casks. Bright, light lemon/green, it is freshly scented, mouthfilling (13% alc/vol) and dry, with excellent intensity of tropical-fruit flavours, tight and youthful. $23

Brancott Estate Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ••••

This famous wine is promoted as “the original Marlborough sauvignon blanc”, since it is descended directly from the pioneering label Montana Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, launched in 1979. The impressive new season’s wine has a highly aromatic bouquet, with mouthfilling body (13% alc/vol), pure, incisive tropical-fruit and herbaceous flavours, good acid spine and a long, dry finish. Fine value. $17

Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2016 •••••

New Zealand’s most internationally acclaimed wine is sought after from Sydney to New York and London. Grown in the Wairau Valley, it is mostly cool-fermented in stainless-steel tanks; a small percentage of the blend is fermented at warmer temperatures in old French oak barriques and large oak vats. Delicious from the start, this weighty, full-bodied wine (13.5% alc/vol) has concentrated, ripe tropical-fruit flavours, showing a distinct touch of biscuity, oak-derived complexity. A classy wine, rich, lively and long, it should break into full stride from mid-2017. $37

Dog Point Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2016 •••••

Hand-harvested at several sites in the Wairau Valley, this intense wine is highly scented, very fresh and vibrant. Weighty (13% alc/vol), it has searching, ripe grapefruit/lime flavours, firm acid spine and a dry, lasting finish. Highly concentrated and tightly structured, it’s arguably the best vintage yet. $27

Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc 2016 •••••

This explosively flavoured Marlborough wine is from Kevin Judd, for many years the chief winemaker at Cloudy Bay. Grown in the central Wairau Valley and the Southern Valleys, it is a full-bodied (13% alc/vol) dry wine that’s overflowing with vibrant, ripe melon/lime flavours, mouth-wateringly crisp and long. $26

Jules Taylor Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ••••½

Grown in the Wairau and Awatere Valleys, this vibrant, punchy wine is a bone-dry style. Highly aromatic, with an array of melon, grapefruit, lime and green-capsicum flavours, it is intensely varietal, full-bodied (13% alc/vol), pure and penetrating. $22

Mission Vineyard Selection Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2016 •••

Estate-grown in the Awatere Valley, this mouthfilling wine (13.5% alc/vol) has fresh, ripe melon, grapefruit, lime and capsicum flavours, with a slightly off-dry, appetisingly crisp finish. Instantly appealing. $20

Mount Vernon Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ••••½

Richly scented, this medium to full-bodied wine (12.5% alc/vol) from Lawson’s Dry Hills has lots of youthful drive, with incisive melon, lime and green capsicum flavours, a slightly salty streak and a crisp, dry, lasting finish. $19

Old Coach Road Nelson Sauvignon Blanc 2016 •••

This is Seifried Estate’s lowest-tier sauvignon blanc, priced sharply and enjoyable young. Medium to full-bodied (12.5% alc/vol), it has good depth of ripely herbaceous, passionfruit/lime flavours and a dry finish. $13

Opawa Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ••••½

From Nautilus, this stylish wine was grown in the Wairau Valley and mostly handled in tanks, but 10% was fermented with indigenous yeasts in large oak cuves. It is mouthfilling (13% alc/vol) and sweet-fruited, with strong, vibrant passionfruit/lime flavours, showing a distinct touch of complexity, lively acidity and a dry, persistent finish. Instantly appealing. $22

Peter Yealands Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2016 •••½

Blended from Awatere Valley and Wairau Valley grapes, this offers fine value. Light lemon/green, it is aromatic and vividly varietal, with a slightly salty streak and good depth of fresh melon, capsicum and lime flavours. $15

Rapaura Springs Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2016 •••½

Bargain-priced, this wine is fresh and punchy, with good body (13.5% alc/vol), ripe passionfruit and lime flavours, and a finely balanced, dry, appetisingly crisp finish. It’s already quite open and expressive. $14

Satellite Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2016 •••½

From Spy Valley, this offers fine value. A fresh, medium- to full-bodied style (12.5% alc/vol), it has good depth of ripe tropical-fruit flavours and is crisp, lively and fully dry. Already highly enjoyable. $16

Sileni Estate Selection Straits Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ••••½

From Sileni’s premium Estate Selection range, this impressive wine is highly aromatic, mouthfilling (13% alc/vol) and lively, with vibrant melon, lime and capsicum flavours, very fresh, tangy, finely poised and punchy. $25

Starborough Family Estate Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ••••½

This label consistently offers top value. Estate-grown in the Awatere Valley and Wairau Valley, it is intensely aromatic, mouthfilling (13% alc/vol) and vibrantly fruity, with excellent depth of melon, lime and capsicum flavours, slightly minerally, dry and tangy. $20

 Te Kairanga Martinborough Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ••••

“TK” is a pioneer Martin­borough winery, now controlled by American multi­millionaire Bill Foley. This youthful, aromatic, mouthfilling wine (13.5% alc/vol) is vibrantly fruity and dry, with ripely herbaceous flavours, crisp and finely poised. $20

Tohu Single Vineyard Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ••••

This consistently enjoyable wine is estate-grown in the upper Awatere Valley. Delicious young, it is strongly aromatic and full-bodied (13% alc/vol), with incisive, pure, ripely herbaceous flavours, dry, crisp and long. $20

Two Rivers of Marlborough Convergence Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ••••½

This classy young wine was grown at five sites, in the Awatere and Southern Valleys, and at Rapaura in the Wairau Valley. Fresh and mouthfilling (13.5% alc/vol), it has strong, vibrant melon, lime and green-capsicum flavours, a slightly salty streak, a touch of complexity, and a finely balanced, dry, persistent finish. $24

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2016 •••••

This striking wine is a blend of Wairau Valley and Awatere Valley grapes. Invitingly scented, it is full-bodied (13% alc/vol) and punchy, with deliciously rich, tropical-fruit flavours, ripe, “sweaty” notes, and lovely vibrancy, harmony and length. Appetisingly crisp and dry, it offers top quality and irresistible value. $20

Wild Rock Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ••••

This quietly satisfying wine is from Craggy Range. Crisp and lively, it is full-bodied (13% alc/vol), with very good depth of pure, ripe melon, lime and capsicum flavours, and finely balanced for early enjoyment. $19

This article was first published in the November 12, 2016 issue of the New Zealand Listener. Follow the Listener on Twitter, Facebook and sign up to the weekly newsletter.

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