White Wine and Picnic tableNew Zealand’s wonder whites: Zingy and refreshing to full and complex; intensely mineral to downright hedonistic: Kiwi Sauvignons showcase everything this stylish variety has to offer. But they’re not the only super whites from the Land of the Long White Cloud.

Majestic Buyer Matt Pym takes up the story.

The rise and spread of Sauvignon

Sauvignon Blanc was really only first planted in New Zealand in the 1970s, yet by the 90s Oz Clarke was describing it as “arguably the greatest in the world.” Since then, the UK has fallen in love with New Zealand “Savvy”, as the locals call it, to the extent that NZ wines are behind only France in their popularity with our customers.

Marlborough can justifiably be thought of as the spiritual home of Sauvignon within New Zealand. Historically the stony, alluvial plains surrounding the Wairau River produce the best Savvies, with grapes from Rapaura’s ‘Golden Mile’ making names like Cloudy Bay, Jackson Estate and Nautilus Estate synonymous with world-class Sauvignon.

VineyardOver the years, insatiable demand and a desire for experimentation have led to increased planting in Marlborough, alongside greater knowledge of microclimates and terroir. Many producers now blend different sub-regions to boost complexity, such as combining Awatere Valley’s tight, citrus wines with the Wairau’s more tropical, passion-fruit style. Nautilus Estate now use grapes from the Wairau, Awatere, Opowa and Kaituna regions for their benchmark Marlborough Sauvignon – a firm Majestic favourite since the late 90s.

A new area to me is the Kekerengu Coast in the far south of Marlborough, home of the superb Astrolabe Sauvignon. Many of the vineyards here are less than a mile from the Pacific Ocean shore and you can almost taste the fresh sea air in the clean, flinty, slightly salty finish of this classy, precise wine laden with honeysuckle.

Nautilus Sauvignon Blanc 2009, MarlboroughNautilus Sauvignon Blanc 2009, Marlborough

£10.99 or £8.79 when you buy 2 bottles*

Te Muna Road Sauvignon Blanc, Craggy Range 2008, MartinboroughTe Muna Road Sauvignon Blanc, Craggy Range 2008, Martinborough

£11.99 or £9.59 when you buy 2 bottles*

Cape Crest Sauvignon Blanc 2008, Te Mata, Hawke’s BayCape Crest Sauvignon Blanc 2008, Te Mata, Hawke’s Bay New!

£17.49 or £13.99 when you buy 2 bottles*

Astrolabe Kekerengu Coast Sauvignon Blanc 2009, MarlboroughAstrolabe Kekerengu Coast Sauvignon Blanc 2009, Marlborough New!

£19.99 or £15.99 when you buy 2 bottles*

The Ned Noble Sauvignon Blanc 2009, Marlborough, Half bottleThe Ned Noble Sauvignon Blanc 2009, Marlborough, Half bottle New!

£12.49 or £9.99 when you buy 2 bottles*

Beyond Marlborough

Swap the north of the South Island for the south of the North Island and you move from Marlborough to Martinborough, home of world-renowned Pinot Noirs. But it makes some stunning Savvies too. Craggy Range is one of NZ’s top producers, making regionally distinct wines from all the major viticultural areas. The stony, limestone-rich soil of their Te Muna vineyard makes a great Sauvignon: all nectarine and floral aromas, with a broad lime and grapefruit palate. A very small proportion of the Te Muna wine is fermented in French oak to add depth and weight.

Buy any 2 New Zealand Wines Save 20%Te Mata’s Cape Crest from Hawkes Bay, on the other hand, really goes for it, undergoing 100% barrel ferment in French oak as well as gaining complexity from small amounts of Semillon and Sauvignon Gris. The resulting style is somewhere between Marlborough, quality white Bordeaux and Californian Fumé Blanc, with lovely fresh stone-fruit, melon and sherbet flavours mixed with toast, vanilla and minerals. We only get a small allocation of this iconic, sumptuous, slightly crazy Sauvignon, so get it while you can.

We return to Marlborough to complete the gamut of Sauvignon styles. Thanks (allegedly) to EU protectionism, we haven’t been able to import NZ dessert wines until this year. But now, at last, the UK gets to appreciate the excellence on offer. The Ned Noble (Botrytis) Sauvignon is a real treat – wonderfully intense with masses of honey and brioche, alongside zesty passion fruit flavours balanced with fine acidity.

New Zealand Aromatic whites group shotAromatic Attractions

Whilst Sauvignon has long been NZ’s trump card, I was really impressed by the quality and range of aromatic white wines being produced there when I visited last September. These styles are not that new to the Kiwi wine scene (Pinot Gris has long been trendy as it goes so well with Asian-Pacific fusion cuisine), but recent times have seen a real surge in quality as winemakers learn more about the varietals and vines continue to age.

Waimea Estate Gewürztraminer 2009, NelsonWaimea Estate Gewürztraminer 2009, Nelson New!
£11.99 or £9.59 when you buy 2 bottles*

We’re already exclusive UK stockists of Waimea Estate’s excellent Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris, but this really stood out on my last visit. It retains classic lychee and rose petal aromas, but is uncharacteristically elegant and almost delicate on the palate. Lovely stuff.

Main Divide Riesling 2008, Pegasus Bay, WaiparaMain Divide Riesling 2008, Pegasus Bay, Waipara New!
£12.49 or £9.99 when you buy 2 bottles*

Made in an off-dry style, this is a real star from Waipara’s most esteemed producer. Lime and orange zest dominate the nose, with wet slate and kerosene nuances and a touch of honeysuckle from a small amount of botrytised grapes. Citrus flavours shine through on the palate whilst fresh acidity keeps everything in balance.

Mount Difficulty Pinot Gris 2008, Central OtagoMount Difficulty Pinot Gris 2008, Central Otago New!
£17.49 or £13.99 when you buy 2 bottles*

Mount Difficulty’s excellent wines consistently win awards and rave reviews at home and abroad. New to Majestic, this is a great example of NZ Pinot Gris – broad, creamy and powerful on the palate, with nectarine, peach and pear flavours. Lovely acid balance and a long finish.

*All prices valid until 30th August 2010 unless otherwise stated.

4 thoughts on “Country in the Spotlight: New Zealand Whites

  1. Dear All, We were lucky enough to visit NZ Feb/Mar ’10 – and visited 19 vineyards – amazing vineyards and country! Re comment about EU controls on imports – we were told that stickies (desert wines) being produced in lower volumes and hence not freely available were banned in EU. However, that stupid rule has now been canned, When it arrives in UK (and it will) watch out for Mission Estate Ice Wine (awesome at NZ$16 = c. £7 per 50cl), Cloudy Bay Late Harvest Gewurtz ’08, Schubert Dolce – just nectar (the Schubert ’06 Syrah is already available at Waitrose and worth every penny! Sauternes – watch out. You can then see why the EU ban such………

  2. I was told exactly the same thing when I visited Marlborough in July 2008. Isabel Estate had some fantastic dessert wines (notably a late harvest sav blanc) and we were told that EU law prevented the import of such wines. And I can certainly second the recommendation of Mission Estate’s ice wine – we had it at my wedding at Mission Estate last year!

  3. In addition to the Jackson Estate sauvignon blanc, they also produce the Grey Ghost sauvignon blanc. Would Majestic buy this? I can get it from Waitrose, but would prefer to buy from you as your delivery service is so much superior to theirs.

    1. Hi Julie, we do stock the Grey Ghost although it’s in extremely limited supply now in just a handful of stores as we’ve almost sold out of 2008. 2009 is due in just before Christmas.
      Many thanks,

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