A savvy majority
To give you an idea just how big Sauvignon Blanc is in New Zealand, let’s start by saying that within the country, the variety represents 62% of all vineyards. Sauvignon Blanc, in the single region of Marlborough by itself, represents more than half of all national wine production. The variety being fairly high yielding, it accounts for 73% of the total volume of wine produced in the country, and with the international appetite for it, 86% of NZ wine exports. In short: it’s kind of a big deal.
That’s also true on the international scale. Overall, New Zealand is responsible for a little over 1% of all the wine produced on the planet, but it accounts for almost 20% of worldwide Sauvignon Blanc. The “kiwi” style of “savvy,” as it’s nicknamed over there, became such a strong identity for the grape twenty years ago that it started influencing the taste of Sauvignon in places like California, Chile, South Africa, and even France.
Ironically, while others seek to emulate it, the styles of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc have become more diverse in recent years. While the dominant style remains bright, mineral, and fruit-driven (think grapefruit, citrus, passionfruit, and other tropical fruit) with vegetal undertones like fresh-cut grass or bell pepper, there have been a growing number of barrel-fermented and/or barrel-aged cuvées, as well as wild-ferment, more natural styles that further widen the range of expressions.
It’s quite the achievement and evolution, when you consider that commercial production of Sauvignon Blanc only began in 1979. The people who planted the very first grapevines in the country, just over 200 years ago (on September 25, 1819, to be exact) certainly wouldn’t have predicted that “kiwi” wines would be enjoyed all over the planet this way.