A crash course in Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc


How would you like to understand Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc in three easy steps  Not only that, with this information you’ll be able to show up even the biggest wine wanker at your next dinner party  Seems impossible? Well it’s actually quite easy.  Read on…

It’s the wine that put New Zealand on the map, but if you think all Marlborough Sauvignon Blancs taste the same, guess again.  While these wines can boast similar flavours such as grassy, herbaceous, gooseberry, tropical fruits, citrus and even snowpea, certain characteristics become more apparent once you hone in on Marlborough’s sub-regions.

Let’s dig deep in to the stony gravels of Marlborough and unearth the true meaning behind the region’s terrior (which by the way, means how Marlborough’s unique combination of geology, climate and geography react with Sauvignon Blanc).  You see, Marlborough is divided in to three distinct areas, and if you understand each one via the label clues, you’ll have a better understanding of what your Marlborough Sav Blanc will taste like, BEFORE you twist open that delicious cap.

The three regions to look out for are Rapaura, Southern Valleys and Awatere.

  1. Rapaura: The Northern most sub region of Marlborough, has distinctly stony soils which soak up the sun, which in turn give the wines of this sub region more tropical fruit edged flavours
  2. Southern Valleys: is cooler and dryer, with older soils, said to be more structural. Whatever that means! What translates in the glass is a sauvignon Blanc that has a great weight, a more textural feel as well as greener flavours and citrus notes.
  3. Awatere: The southernmost valley of Marlborough with free draining silt over gravel and mudstone. This produces wines with lifted aromatic as well as intense flavours – which if you close your eyes, you can detect leafy, green, tomato stalk nuances.
stunning image of Wither Hills Rarangi Vineyard by Jim Tannock
stunning image of Wither Hills Rarangi Vineyard by Jim Tannock


Don’t take my word for it – do what I did.  Grab a wine from each sub region and taste away  I sampled; Stoneleigh Rapaura Series Sauvignon Blanc 2013 (Rapaura), Brancott Estate Letter Series ‘B’ Sauvignon Blanc 2013 (Southern Valleys) and Triplebank Sauvignon Blanc 2013 (Awatere Valley).

  1. Put red dots on your wine glasses – number them 1 through to 3
  2. Get someone else to pour the wines in the numbered glasses, so you don’t have a clue what is being poured. Get your friend to label the wines 1, 2 and 3 so they correspond to the glasses.
  3. On a sheet label
    1. Stoneleigh Rapaura Series Sauvignon Blanc 2013 (Rapaura) as A
    2. Brancott Estate Letter Series ‘B’ Sauvignon Blanc 2013 (Southern Valleys) as B
    3. Triplebank Sauvignon Blanc 2013 (Awatere Valley) as C
  4. Taste away – and write on each wine’s red dot whether you think it is A, B or C
  5. You will be surprised at how well trained your palate is at detecting the difference – I got all three correct.
  6. Once you’ve done this exercise, think which style you loved the most.
  7. That’s what sub region you should be looking for from now on!
One of the many vineyards in the Awatere valley, Marlborough.


  1. It would be worth having a party to do just this! I was recently with a British cousin who only drinks Australian and New Zealand wines and she was served the wrong Chardonnay, which prompted a minor melee at the restaurant. There is something about white wine from your neck of the woods that makes people fierce on the subject, LOL! 😀 I am going to run this post by her.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. How can we know the sub-region for the wine? In the most of the cases, it is not listed on the label? Is there a table somewhere which groups the Marlboro SBs into the sub-regions? If not, may be you can create one? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. One of my fav Sauvignon Blancs is from Whitehaven in Marlborough. I don’t know what region that is but it is very tropical fruit so I am guessing Rapaura? The aromas burst out of the glass. Thanks for breaking it down for us. Cheers.


  4. This is great. I drink Marlborough wines all the time and will try this 3-way test. I didn’t understand about the different regions of Marlborough. (I suspect by the time I get to the third bottle it might get a little confusing 😀 )


  5. Nice. My fave (so far) is Allan Scott which we found last year when we were over there. Had a nice lunch at the winery too. Sadly haven’t been able to find it at home.


  6. I first tried Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc when I lived in Australia, and quickly found some firm favourites. I tend to have them less often now that I’m back in the UK, but his has been a great reminder. And I’m definitely going to use your guide to get to know them a bit better…


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