if there’s one thing Marlborough sav blanc can do, it’s paint a picture: its iconic (often pungent) aromas and intense flavours instantly transport the drinker to the region’s pristine, river-carved landscapes and its ancient Sounds. Or maybe to the bottle-o, until we can travel across the ditch. But dig a little deeper and there’s a world of nuance to be found. We tasted 25 single-vineyard wines championing both site and subregion, showcasing layers of unique flavours and textures – not to mention quality. Here are our top 14.
2013 Giesen The Fuder Dillons Point Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, NZ$60
Fruit for this wine was sourced from the ocean-proximate Dillons Point in the eastern part of the Wairau Valley, and matured in large-format German oak. This is a generous wine of glorious texture and freshness. Complex citrus fruit and savoury, herbal flavours.
2019 Auntsfield South Oaks Barrel Fermented Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, NZ$38
The rugged Southern Valleys is prized for its concentrated fruit from greywacke-rich soils. This is a tense, medium-bodied sav blanc with flavours of tropical fruit and ginger, river stone-like minerality and fine, tight acid.
2018 Clos Henri Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, A$59/NZ$34
Brothers Rémi and Jean-Marie Bourgeois famously settled in Marlborough in the early 2000s after finding land similar to their home in Sancerre; their Old World legacy is evident here. White flowers, green mango and tarragon notes are framed by pebbly minerality and a deep, lengthy umami-laden core.
2017 Astrolabe Taihoa Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, NZ$35
The Taihoa vineyard sits on the hills of the wild Kēkerengū coastline, south of Awatere Valley. Aside from its estery, mealy vibe, you can kind of tell this was made from exceptional fruit grown by the sea. It’s defined by a briney ocean spray character and underpinned by the subregional hallmarks of capsicum, blackcurrant leaf and dried herbs.
2015 Te Whare Ra SV5182 Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, A$42/NZ$35
From Anna and Jason Flowerday comes this singular, almost enigmatic, take on Marlborough sav. It’s very textural and very complex – a showcase of site, with lemon, white flowers and Thai herbs; barrel age, with toast and spice; and bottle age, with grass and hay.
2017 Hans Herzog Sauvignon Blanc Sur Lie, Marlborough, A$75/NZ$45
There’s such a European feel to Hans Herzog’s wines, almost effortlessly so, but there’s no compromising on Marlborough’s distinctive terroir either. This has a Bordeaux Blanc-like appeal with its floral notes, poached pear flavours and full body. It saw 30% new oak.
2015 Seresin Marama Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, A$63/NZ$38
The full spectrum of sauvignon blanc is on show here: guava, capsicum, gooseberry and elderflower with subtle oak complexity to boot. It’s bold and brazen, defined by intensity and a refined and refreshing texture. It’s all about the fruit and site – Seresin’s biodynamic Noa Vineyard in the southern Waihopai Valley.
2020 Blank Canvas Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, A$30/NZ$28
Transparent and fruit-forward with tropical and citrus fruits, herbaceous notes and attractive floral tones. A very refreshing wine with a kind of ‘101’ appeal; best slurped on a moody Marlborough day with a bowl of freshly steamed green-lipped mussels.
2020 Rapaura Springs Bull Paddock Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, NZ$28
Situated in Dillons Point, the Bull Paddock vineyard’s clay soils help produce intensely flavoured fruit. This has a definite mineral feel countered by juicy tropical fruit weight, steely texture and crisp, crunchy acidity.
2018 Saint Clair Pioneer Block 3 Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, A$32/NZ$29
This impressive wine comes from the lower Wairau Valley, and features guava aromas, pepper and plenty of dried alpine herbal notes. It has a salty, wet stone mineral character, tight acidity and excellent length.
2016 Folium Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, A$38/NZ$32
Reduction and fairly obvious barrel work have resulted in a delicious sav blanc that could easily be mistaken for Sancerre. It’s savoury with white flowers, white pepper and lemon zest aromas, and complex flavours of bay leaf, thyme and preserved citrus. Just excellent.
2019 Windrush Organic Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, NZ$22
Windrush Organic is a new-ish project from Callum and Sarah Linklater, and their home block vineyard of the same name. The fleshy fruit weight feels good but it’s the savoury, grippy phenolics and mouthwatering acidity that bring it all together. An exciting rendition.
2019 Villa Maria Southern Clays Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, NZ$30
A lesson in balance, with pineapple and guava-driven fruit tempered by vanilla oak, crisp acidity and a slight kerosene note. The phenolics provide good framework and chew.
2020 Yealands Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, A$25/NZ$25
Super regional and very varietal with guava, musk and steeliness. Ultimately, this would really refresh on a hot day, ideally on or overlooking a body of water. A classic