Here’s an unpopular opinion: I hate New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. This wine has a tendency to be completely overblown yet somehow also generic-tasting at the same time. Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand is almost always overly fruity, aggressively herbaceous (if you can even categorize that signature jalapeño-cat pee stink as “herbaceous”), and far too boozy. This is because many winemakers see the popularity of Savvy-B, and rather than seeking out the best sites to showcase the grape, decide to go with the cheap-and-easy method. They plant it in vineyards that are plentiful but too warm, then proceed to harvest large amounts of overripe grapes, add tartaric acid and other additives to compensate for any unpleasant flavors or structure, and sell the finished product for dirt cheap.
But every once in a while, a bottle comes along that blows all those preconceived notions out of the water, and that’s just what the Wither Hills Sauvignon Blanc did when it snuck its way onto a tasting panel last week.
The grapes come from Marlborough, the source of two-thirds of the country’s Sauvignon Blanc, which has a better climate for the grape than most other New Zealand regions. And yet, it’s got none of those typical, fatal characteristics. While the Wither Hills has that expected, pungent, tropical and green bell pepper-like nose, the palate is exceptionally restrained and more Sancerre-like. It’s fresh and zingy, with tart grapefruit citrus and a grassy, clean finish. And it’s really, really delicious to drink. Plus, it still remains a value, retailing around $13 in most shops.
If you’ve got a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc hater in your life, present them with a glass of this and watch their reaction. I can promise you that they’ll be as shocked as I was. Tasted blind, I might have even guessed that this was an Old World wine. Well, almost.