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International Sauvignon Blanc Day Recognises An Iconic Varietal That Continues To Surprise And Delight

International Sauvignon Blanc Day on 3 May is an opportunity to recognise the contribution of the Marlborough viticulture industry, and to reflect on another year of excellence for this iconic varietal wine.

Wine Marlborough General Manager Marcus Pickens describes why Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc has earned its place on the world stage.

“Marlborough-produced Sauvignon Blanc made a massive impact from the very first taste all those decades ago. It sort of shocked and surprised everyone with its intensity of aromas and flavours,” Marcus says.

“While Sauvignon Blanc is produced in many countries, Marlborough wine stands on its own for its purity and flavour intensity. Our Sauvignon Blanc is crisp, zesty and tropical – undeniably aromatic.”

And, with the emergence of new and alternative styles, Sauvignon Blanc is still surprising and delighting people.

“Diversity is part of the Sauvignon Blanc success story.

“Growers, winemakers and the hospitality and tourism industries are exploring and innovating with the style, subregions, business models and experiences they create for both New Zealanders and international visitors.

“This is a fascinating sector where we have family-owned, pioneering brands branching out in new areas, in the spirit of continuous advancement, working alongside newer corporate-owned brands.

“Each are doing different things with Sauvignon Blanc, but on the whole the industry is collaborating and pushing forward,” Marcus says.

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An emergence of new and alternative styles

Marcus says that continual advancements in viticulture and winemaking have seen the emergence of alternative Sauvignon Blanc styles made using different techniques – such as oak-aging, barrel fermenting, wild fermenting and the creation of low or no-alcohol wines.

“Zero percent wines, Sauvignon Blanc included, have emerged as a real force,” Marcus says.

“There is enough innovation underway to introduce a new ‘alternative Sauvignon Blanc’ class at the 2023 Marlborough Wine Show.

“We are blessed with the type of climate, terroir and water purity that Sauvignon Blanc grapes thrive in, but the flavour and quality is brought to the fore by incredibly skilled viticulturalists and winemakers,” Marcus says.

“In Marlborough, we have a phenomenally-skilled industry – we attract and retain some of the world’s best winemakers and trainees.

A remarkable provenance story

Marcus says another reason to celebrate International Sauvignon Blanc Day is the remarkable provenance story of Marlborough wine. In August 2023 the industry celebrated the 50th anniversary of Marlborough’s official beginning as a wine region.

“We have a lot to be proud of in Marlborough. Sauvignon Blanc is our signature wine that restaurants and hotels worldwide have embraced.

“It is worth reflecting on the fact that in those pioneering winemaking days, few people would have predicted Marlborough’s rapid ascent to become one of New Zealand’s preeminent – and internationally renowned – wine-growing regions.

“For many of our winegrowing pioneers – Frank Yukich, the Rose, Sutherland, Ibbotson, Marris and Scott families, just to name a few – it would have been gut instinct backed by climate science,” Pickens says.

How will Wine Marlborough acknowledge International Sauvignon Day this year?

Wine Marlborough has provided its members with a digital campaign in the form of information, video and images they can use on their website and social media pages.

Marcus says that most local winemakers and wineries are happy to talk about Sauvignon Blanc. The campaign kit supplied to them aims to elevate the day.


About Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc

  • Marlborough viticulture has expanded from 6,831 hectares in 2003 to the nearly 30,000 hectares of vineyard Marlborough boasts – about 71% of the national total.
  • Annually, Marlborough produces 300 million to 400 million bottles of wine.
  • Marlborough vineyards comprise 81% Sauvignon Blanc grapes
  • Three-quarters of all Sauvignon Blanc is planted in Marlborough (23k+ ha), followed by Hawke's Bay (978 ha) and Nelson (610 ha).

About Sauvignon Blanc (general)

  • Sauvignon Blanc was commercially produced in New Zealand for the first time in the 1970s.
  • It is the country's most widely planted variety, and is New Zealand's flagship export wine.
  • Nationally, over 25,000 hectares of vineyard land are devoted to growing the grape.
  • Sauvignon Blanc comprises 78% of New Zealand’s overall wine production — and it’s 89% of what we export to the rest of the world. The total production is: 378,300 tonnes.
  • It's one of the parent grapes of Cabernet Sauvignon along with Cabernet Franc.
  • Today’s Marlborough Sauvignon Blancs typically display zingy acidity, with a leap-out-of-the-glass pungency and heady aromas of passionfruit, gooseberry and freshly cut herbs.
  • They have a distinctive style that reflects the region’s hot days and cool nights. Those long summer days allow the sugars, or brix, to build, while the cooler nights allow the grapes to retain the acidity Sauvignon is best known for.

The economic contribution of the wine industry to Marlborough

From a 2020 report by NZIER, The Contribution of Wine to the Marlborough Economy:

  • the wine industry injected $571 million into the Marlborough economy
  • 6,088 jobs currently in the region were either directly or indirectly associated with the industry
  • In 2000 wine contributed to $119 million to the economy, increasing to $571 million by 2020 – ie, a 380% increase in 20 years.

NB: These figures do not include any seasonal roles which the industry relies on for activities such as winter pruning and winemaking.

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