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Michael Cooper's top sauvignon blanc picks for 2019

Our most widely planted grape arrives in an enticing mix of styles.

The new season’s sauvignon blancs are now on the shelves, delivering all the aromatic intensity, vibrancy and flavour-pungency you could hope for. But, in addition to the familiar herbaceous savvies, some producers are creating a major style contrast by fermenting and maturing their wines in oak casks rather than the ubiquitous stainless-steel tanks, adding subtlety and complexity.

Awatere River Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ••••

Offering good value, this is an aromatic, mouthfilling (13% alc/vol) wine, with melon and green-capsicum flavours, showing good vigour and intensity. $20

Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2019 •••••

New Zealand’s most internationally acclaimed wine is ripely scented and weighty (13% alc/vol), with rich tropical-fruit flavours, herbal notes, a very subtle seasoning of oak adding complexity and a crisp, dry finish. $37

Babich Winemakers’ Reserve Barrel Fermented Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2017 •••••

This classy wine is complex and concentrated, with tropical fruit flavours to the fore, a seasoning of nutty, toasty oak and a long finish. $35

Blind River Awatere Valley Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ••••½

This elegant, single-vineyard wine is fresh, punchy and full-bodied (13% alc/vol), with lively tropical-fruit and herbaceous flavours, which are crisp and lasting. $25

Dog Point Vineyard Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2019 •••••

This exceptional wine is highly aromatic, weighty (13.5% alc/vol) and sweet-fruited, with intense, ripely herbaceous flavours and a crisp, very long finish. Certified organic. $28

Brancott Estate Letter Series B Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2018 •••••

Promoted by Pernod Ricard NZ as “our finest expression of Marlborough’s most famous variety”, this wine is fleshy (13.5% alc/vol) and sweet-fruited, with strong passionfruit/lime flavours, showing considerable complexity and a dry, harmonious finish. $25

Catalina Sounds Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2018 •••••

Intensely aromatic, this refined wine has excellent weight (12.7% alc/vol), vigour and depth of tropical-fruit flavours, a herbaceous undercurrent and a crisp, sustained finish. $22

Greywacke Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2019 •••••

Already very expressive, this is a fleshy (13.5% alc/vol), sweet-fruited and rounded wine, with generous, ripe tropical-fruit flavours, showing a distinct touch of complexity and a long, dry finish. $27

Clos Marguerite Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2018 ••••½

This classy Awatere Valley wine is mouthfilling (13% alc/vol), with vibrant tropical-fruit and herbaceous flavours, showing good richness and complexity and a dry, finely balanced finish. $29

Dashwood Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ••••

A punchy and full-bodied wine (13% alc/vol), with strong, fresh tropical-fruit and herbaceous flavours and a basically dry, crisp finish. This regional blend is Marlborough in a glass. $16

Joiy Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc ••••

This non-vintage wine is packaged in a 250ml can, to be “enjoiyed” at picnics. Crisp and lively, it is medium-bodied (12.5% alc/vol), with strong, ripely herbaceous flavours of melons and green capsicums. $6

Delegat Awatere Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ••••½

A top buy. Fresh and mouthfilling (13% alc/vol), it has good vigour and intensity of ripe melon and green-capsicum flavours. Lees-ageing notes add complexity and a lingering finish. $20

Graham Norton’s Own Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ••••½

From “chief winemaker Graham Norton”, Invivo’s instantly appealing wine is ripely scented and full-bodied (13% alc/vol), with fresh tropical-fruit flavours to the fore, a herbal undercurrent and great drinkability. $19

Jules Taylor Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ••••½

This regional blend is full-bodied (13.5% alc/vol) and lively, with good intensity of tropical-fruit and herbaceous flavours and a bone-dry, crisp finish. $23

Hãhã Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ••••

This is a good buy. Very fresh and lively, it is medium-bodied (12.5% alc/vol), with strong passionfruit, lime and green-capsicum flavours. $18

Mahi Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2018 •••••

Drinking superbly now, this beauty is a freshly scented, weighty wine (13.5% alc/vol), with ripe tropical-fruit flavours to the fore, herbal notes, good complexity and excellent intensity and poise. $22

Mount Riley Limited Release Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ••••½

Offering great value, this full-bodied wine (13% alc/vol) has very good vigour and depth of tropical-fruit and herbaceous flavours that are fresh and lingering. $17

Old Coach Road Nelson Sauvignon Blanc 2019 •••½

Seifried Estate’s lowest-tier sauvignon blanc is priced sharply. Full-bodied (13% alc/vol), it has fresh, punchy herbaceous and tropical-fruit aromas and flavours and a basically dry, tangy finish. $14

Pegasus Bay Sauvignon Semillon 2017 •••••

This distinctive North Canterbury wine has loads of personality. From vines over 30 years old, it is fragrant and full-bodied (13.7% alc/vol), with tropical-fruit flavours, a subtle seasoning of oak and a tightly structured, lasting finish. $33

Opawa Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ••••½

Already highly enjoyable, this Wairau Valley wine has good intensity of ripely herbaceous flavours, showing a touch of oak-derived complexity and a dry, crisp finish. $22

Smith & Sheth CRU Wairau Sauvignon Blanc 2019 •••••

This premium wine is richly fragrant, weighty (13% alc/vol), sweet-fruited and tightly structured. Highly concentrated, with lively tropical-fruit flavours. Pure, focused and long, it’s already delicious. $28

Te Pā The Reserve Collection Seaside Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ••••½

From the lower Wairau Valley, this mouthfilling wine (13% alc/vol) has good intensity of melon, passionfruit and capsicum flavours. $25

Rapaura Springs Reserve Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ••••

Offering good value, this Wairau Valley wine is mouthfilling (13.5% alc/vol) and vibrant, with strong tropical-fruit flavours, a herbaceous undercurrent and a finely balanced, long finish. $19

The Boneline Waipara Sauvignon Blanc 2018 ••••½

This distinctive North Canterbury wine is weighty and mouthfilling (13.5% alc/vol), with fresh, ripely herbaceous flavours, showing excellent vigour, a minerally streak and a well-rounded, off-dry finish. $25

Tohu Awatere Valley Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ••••

Offering good value, this lively, medium-bodied wine (13% alc/vol) has passionfruit, capsicum and lime flavours, showing excellent delicacy, vibrancy and depth. $18

Toi Toi Reserve Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ••••½

This Wairau Valley wine is mouthfilling (13.5% alc/vol), with strong, ripe tropical-fruit flavours and a finely balanced, smooth finish. It’s already drinking well. $22

Two Rivers Convergence Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ••••½

This aromatic wine was handled partly in egg-shaped, concrete vessels. It is mouthfilling (13% alc/vol), with very good intensity of fresh tropical-fruit and herbaceous flavours, a touch of complexity and a dry, lingering finish. $24

Villa Maria Reserve Clifford Bay Awatere Valley Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2019 •••••

This is an outstanding wine. Already delicious, it is weighty (13% alc/vol), with penetrating flavours of passionfruit, lime and green capsicum that build to a lasting finish. $25

Vidal Reserve Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ••••½

Offering great value, this mouthfilling wine (13% alc/vol) has ripe passionfruit flavours, a touch of complexity and a dry, lengthy finish. $20

Zephyr Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2018 •••••

This top-notch wine is weighty (13% alc/vol) and punchy, with deep lime and passionfruit flavours and a tightly structured, dry, persistent finish. $24

This article was first published in the October 19, 2019 issue of the New Zealand Listener.