We Asked 10 Sommeliers: What’s the Most Overrated Sauvignon Blanc?

As one of the most popular and widely planted white grapes, is Sauvignon Blanc prominently featured at local wine shops and on restaurant menus. Consumers have long appreciated the grape’s approachability, with a wide range of price points and styles readily available. Wine lovers often look to Sauvignon Blanc for its fresh flavors, crisp acidity, and general lack of oak aging — a characteristics that has become increasingly popular with younger buyers.

But as Sauvignon Blanc continues to gain momentum and becomes the flagship wine in more and more parts of the world, it begs the question: Have we reached peak Savvy B? To find out, we asked sommeliers around the country which Sauvignon Blancs they think are overrated. Many of the experts point to well-known signature styles — from Marlborough to Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc and even Bordeaux — and suggest alternative grapes and regions that are worth seeking out. Here’s what they had to say:

The Most Overrated Sauvignon Blanc, According to Sommeliers:

  • New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc
  • Napa Valley and Sonoma Sauvignon Blanc
  • Sancerre
  • Sauvignon Blanc from Bordeaux

“If I’m being honest, I think New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is one of the more overrated categories in this arena. While there are beautiful examples of Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, I find that most of what is commercially available and accessible here leaves much to be desired in terms of quality, and tends to dole out unchecked flavor and aroma with a heavy hand. While great New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is revered for its notes of gooseberry, zippy grapefruit, and grassy tones, some of the more poorly crafted iterations have the potential to veer off course. At their worst, these wines can exhibit notes of grassy cat-pee and cheap grapefruit candles from the mall.” —Kathleen Standridge, wine director, The Shipwright’s Daughter, Mystic, Conn.

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“As a restaurant person, I have to say New Zealand. I’m sure you get that a lot, but my reasoning is that I don’t think that it’s a great food wine. I could totally understand grabbing a bottle of Cloudy Bay for the beach or to pair with Netflix, but the flavor tends to be so loud and intense that it will overwhelm anything with any nuance or subtlety. To be fair to New Zealand, they are making some phenomenal Chardonnay and Pinot Noir out there and I would love to see them export more of their wines.” —Andrew Thompson, wine director, Eastern Standard, Boston

“I find an unsettling consistency in Napa Valley and New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs. Valley wines are hot and flabby, with mealy, overripe tropical fruit. Producers try to balance and mask this with the addition of new oak. At the other end of the spectrum we have New Zealand’s approach to shrill Sauvignon Blanc, festooned with green pepper. Many lack any sort of inviting texture, and they finish rather bland and watery. I want a Sauvignon Blanc that’s a touch herbaceous, and offers notes of green tropical fruit and a core of salty minerality with an almost beeswax texture. The Japanese have a wonderful word for this kind of sensation: karakuchi. That being said, Lail Vineyards’ Georgia is an absolute stunner. On paper it is an over-oaked, ripe Sauvignon Blanc, but in the glass, it’s spirited, restrained, and playfully flirtatious with spearmint, Meyer lemon, and an orange blossom nose. On the tongue, [there are] quince and just-ripe notes of peach, starfruit, and brioche with a beguiling texture.” —Benjamin Coutts, beverage director, Soseki, Winter Park, Fla.

“Sorry to offend some people, but I’ve always thought that Sonoma and Napa Sauvignon Blanc is overrated.” —Jenna Isaacs, sommelier, Rustic Canyon, Santa Monica, Calif.

“Although the first bottle of wine I ever spent more than $20 on when I was 21 years old was a bottle of Sancerre, I could never drink Sancerre for the rest of my life and be just fine. I can appreciate the wines and the history behind them, but I want wine with a bit more richness and fruit. Although, global warming is definitely adding a ripeness to the newer vintages of Sancerre that I can appreciate.” —Demetria Lewis, sommelier, Birdie G’s, Santa Monica, Calif.

“Certain prestigious Bordeaux properties position their dry white wines at too-high prices. It is a premiumization of white wines produced alongside [high-growth red]. At the same time, the Bordeaux vineyard is recognized for the quality and standing of these great red wines based on Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, etc., [while] dry white wines based on Sauvignon Blanc struggle to achieve the same expectations. However, to remain on the same price positioning as the first wines, certain cuvées may be overvalued. The AOC Bordeaux remains very generic, and the wines are still too little known to be offered at more than $200 a bottle. Although the quality of Sauvignon Blancs from Bordeaux is becoming clearer and winning over more and more consumers, I remain convinced that these are wines ‘in the making’ and must remain accessible to the general public to demonstrate this.” —Adrien Cascio, sommelier, Cenadou Bistrot, North Salem, N.Y.

“It’s hard for me to speak to which Sauvignon Blanc is overrated because for anyone who knows me, my mantra in wine has always been and will forever be a saying my grandfather taught me growing up: gusto è gusto, or ‘taste is taste.’ Everyone’s palate is unique, shaped by our personal experiences, preferences, and even our culture. What may taste divine to one person might not appeal to another, and that’s perfectly OK. Whether you’re savoring a mineral-tinged Sancerre or a delightfully aromatic Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, the key is to drink what you love. After all, wine is meant to be enjoyed, to enhance a meal and ignite good conversation. We as wine professionals should be interpreters of our guests’ tastes rather than advocates for our own.” —Joseph Lapi, director of wine, RPM Restaurants, Chicago, Washington D.C., and Las Vegas

“I wouldn’t say overrated as much as overemphasized, but my answer here is Sancerre. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the wines and 100 percent understand why the region gained the reputation that it did — the wines are nervy, mineral, bright, and zesty. Sancerre is a crowd pleaser and that is undeniable. My biggest argument is just that there are so many underrepresented regions in the Loire creating equally compelling examples of Sauvignon Blanc right next door, such as Quincy, Pouilly-Fumé, or Menetou-Salon. Many of the wines from these regions stand up to or even outperform some Sancerre, while coming in at a much lower price point.” —Suzanne DiStio, wine & beverage director, One White Street, NYC

“Sancerre! The farming in the Sancerre region is predominantly chemical-driven, and there are some truly fantastic Sauvignon Blancs from other, immediate-surrounding regions in the Loire Valley.” —Cody Pruitt, managing partner & beverage director, Libertine, NYC

“Sauvignon Blanc can be quite polarizing. It’s a love or hate thing, really. I would say that the most overrated style of Sauv Blanc is the style that most, I believe, associate with the grape: New Zealand, stainless steel-fermented Sauvignon Blanc. Over half of all grape production in New Zealand is devoted to this varietal, and therefore internationally I think we associate this region with this grape. They are known to be stylistically skewed towards that grassy, grapefruit, puckering style that we all have had a few bottles of in our day. Sauv Blanc actually originates in Bordeaux, so it’s originally produced in a much different climate. This more modern New Zealand style has become the ubiquitous glass-pour Sauvignon Blanc in America, and has lost its luster for me.” —TJ Provenzano, beverage director & co-owner, Bar Miller, NYC

*Image retrieved from 5ph – stock.adobe.com