The Sauvignon Blanc vineyards - the most popular wine in New Zealand

What Is the Most Popular Wine In New Zealand?

Do you Know the Most Popular Wine In New Zealand? We know!

It was no secret to us that Sauvignon Blanc is the most popular wine in New Zealand.  We are avid wine lovers and one of the top reasons that New Zealand was on our bucket list was to visit Marlborough, the most famous wine region in all of New Zealand.

Highlights of The Most Popular Wine in New Zealand

Why is Sauvignon Blanc the Most Popular Wine in New Zealand?

One of the main reasons that Sauvignon Blanc is the most popular wine in New Zealand is its incredible taste!  It has a fresh, crisp palette with pronounced citrus flavours including grapefruit and lime as well as subtle tropical fruits like passionfruit.  

Stainless steel tanks for the famous Sauvignon Blanc - the most popular wine in New Zealand

New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is an easy-drinking, refreshing wine that makes it ideal as a summer patio drink. It is also a perfect pairing for seafood or poultry.

✅ Looking for a great tour of the Marlborough Wine Region? Check out the fantastic tour that we did by clicking here.

Where is Marlborough, New Zealand?

Marlborough is pretty much in the geographical centre of New Zealand.  It comprises about 12,500 square kilometres (nearly 5,000 square miles) at the north eastern end of the South Island.  

Most of this land is rugged mountains and forested hills, and only a small portion in the valleys is suitable for growing grapes.

Map of Marlborough

Blenheim is the economic and administrative centre of Marlborough.  It is referred to as the gateway of the Marlborough wine region.  With a relatively small population of around 30,000, it is a great place to stay to discover the wineries of the region.  

We spent a couple of days here at a vacation rental property owned by a lovely local couple. It was a great spot to use as our base to travel around Marlborough.

The Winegrowers Association in the Marlborough Region is very collaborative and has a great website to help plan your visit. Check it out here.

What Makes Marlborough So Special for Sauvignon Blanc Grapes?

The unique flavour of  Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough is attributable to the country’s cool climate combined with lots of sunshine.  This is enhanced by the ocean breezes and distinctive terroir (soil) composed of sand and silt left by the receding glaciers.  

The rugged mountains surrounding the fertile wine valleys of Marlborough protect the vineyards from strong winds and frost helping to create a warm, sunny and dry climate that is ideal for growing the best Sauvignon Blanc grapes.

The Sauvignon Blanc grapes are the most popular wine in New Zealand

8 Marlborough Wineries That We Visited

We spent several days in the Marlborough area with the specific goal of experiencing some of the world’s finest Sauvignon Blanc.  Here is a list of the 8 wineries that we visited:

Hunter’s Wine

This is the first winery that we visited in Marlborough and what a great introduction it was!

The winery is set in a beautiful natural garden bordered by vineyards.  An outdoor seating area is surrounded by trellises covered in lush greenery and beautiful blossoms.  Such a relaxing place to enjoy a glass of wine.

The beautiful scenery at Hunters

Hunter’s Wines in Marlborough is a family owned winery that was instrumental in creating the Marlborough wine revolution.

The founder, Ernie Hunter purchased a small parcel of land on Rapaura Road in Blenheim in 1980 on what is now referred to as the ‘Golden Mile of Marlborough’.  

Vineyards at Hunters

Hunter’s Wine quickly became known for its awarding winning Sauvignon Blanc after winning the Sunday Times Vintage Festival in the UK in 1986.  The winery has been winning international awards ever since and is now one of New Zealand’s leading wineries and a world renowned establishment.

But wine isn’t the only thing that Hunter’s is known for.  They also have a wonderful restaurant where you can enjoy a glass of their finest wine paired with some great food.  

We chose to share a delicious charcuterie plate with our wine.  Kim selected the signature Sauvignon Blanc and Denis went for a fruity Pinot Noir.

Charcuterie board at Hunters Wines

Bladen Wines

Bladen’s was one of our favourite wineries in New Zealand.  You won’t find a grand entrance to the winery or massive estate building that houses the tasting cellar.  Everything here is understated, simple and casual.  And the wine is superb!  

Like Hunter’s, this is a family-owned winery and is considered one of the pioneers of Marlborough’s wine industry.

Bladen vineyard

Christine and Dave MacDonald left the city life behind and moved to Blenheim in 1989 where they planted their vineyard by hand and sold their first grapes to local wineries.  

Tasting room at Bladen

They soon began marketing wines under their own label, Bladen, formed from the first 3 letters of each of their 2 children – Blair and Deni.  

The siblings are now full time partners in the Bladen family business.  And they aren’t just partners in name!  Blair greeted us when we visited the winery and proudly served us some of their most popular wines complete with engaging and passionate stories of the wines and the winery.

Blair at Bladen

Framingham

The Framingham vineyards were established in 1981 with plantings of Riesling vines.  As a result, their Rieslings are some of the oldest in Marlborough.  But that is not all they produce.  They also grow Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay among several others varieties.

Wines at Framingham

The winery has focused on a sustainable management style to winemaking,  preserving the environment in their low-impact approach to farming the land.  Much of the work is done by hand, without harmful chemicals and the winery is certified organic.

The entrance to Framingham

Mount Riley

Mount Riley is considered a mid-sized winery in Marlborough, producing wine under 3 different labels: 17 Valley, Estate Range and Limited Release.

Entrance to Mount Riley

The winery was founded by John Buchanan, a fifth generation descendant of Marlborough, in 1992.  John’s daughter, Amy, is the manager of the winery while her husband Matt is the winemaker.  Mount Riley is another great example of a traditional family-owned and operated winery in Marlborough.

Map of the area around Mount Riley

We were fortunate to get a private tour of the winery before it opened.  This included having access to the wine cellar, production area and the vineyards.  

Following the tour, our host introduced us to 6 of the top selling wines at Mount Riley.  The whites included a 2022 Estate Range Sauvignon Blanc, a 2019 17 Valley Sauvignon Blanc and a 2021 Estate Range Pinot Gris followed by a 2022 Pinot Rose.   

The reds were a 2022 Estate Range Pinot Noir and a 2021 17 Valley Pinot Noir.  I can’t think of a better way to start the day in the Marlborough region!

Wines on offer at Mount Riley

Allan Scott Family Winemakers

We drove for about 15 minutes to Allan Scott Family Winemakers.  The founder of the winery, Allan Scott, has been in the wine business in New Zealand for 50 years.  He worked for Montana Vineyards (now Brancott Estate and the largest producer in New Zealand) in 1973, planting their first vineyards.

Vineyards at Allan Scott

He and his wife Catherine, opened Allan Scott Wines in 1990 and became one of the first in a wave of independent winemakers in the Marlborough region.  They have since been joined by their son Josh and daughter Sara who have assumed operational and managerial control of the business.

The entrance to Allan Scott

Allan Scott has added a great casual style bistro to the cellar.  The Allan Scott Bistro is quite popular with the local community as well as visitors to the area.  We had lunch here and the menu features a variety of modern fusion cuisine.  

Kim chose the leek and onion tart which came with house relish and greens.  She paired that with a glass of Estate Sauvignon Blanc. 

Super tasty lunch

Denis opted for the Potted Pork with cornichons, pickles and sourdough paired with a glass of Estate Pinot Noir.  Quite delicious!

Poted pork for lunch

Allan Scott does close for the winter season, so that is something to keep in mind if you are planning a visit.

No. 1 Family Estate

This is one of the most unique wineries in New Zealand.  The owner and founder, Daniel Lebrun, has roots in the Champagne region of France where his family have been involved in winemaking since 1684.

No 1 Estate

Daniel and his wife Adele emigrated to New Zealand where they established their winery in 1997.  

What is different about No. 1 Estates is that they are known for producing some of the finest sparkling wines in the world, using the Methode Traditionelle – the same method that Daniel’s family in Champagne uses to produce their wines.  

Flyer explaining the method of making champagne

No. 1 Estates has become the de facto standard for quality sparkling wines in New Zealand and they make the bubbly for many other wineries in the area.

We can certainly vouch for the quality of their sparkling wines.  For our tasting, we tried three of the most popular bubblies and each of them was fresh, crisp and delicious.  

We learned that the string of pearl-like bubbles rising from the bottom of our glasses (the tiniest we have seen in sparkling wines!) are called beads.  We also learned that the head that forms when the wine is poured is called mousse.

Tasting at No 1

This winery is a must visit on your trip through Marlborough.

Rock Ferry

Rock Ferry winery, established in 2005, was one of the newer wineries that we visited on our trip to Marlborough.

Entrance to Rock Ferry

The winery produces 10 grape varieties (including Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc) from 4 separate vineyards.  Each vineyard has its own distinct soil profile and all are certified organic.   Rock Cellar prides itself on sustainable farming and organic production and it is what the winery has become known for.

They use no chemicals and it is quite fascinating to see that they have sheep grazing between the rows of vines as a way of keeping down the weeds and fertilizing the soil.

While we only tried a few of the wines here, our group found it to be the least favourite Marlborough winery that we visited.  Perhaps the organic approach needs a bit more maturing before it catches on.  

Rock Ferry is an organic winery

If you are looking to do wine tasting they have a new studio and tasting cellar at their Corner’s Vineyard. Check out the location on Rapaura Road near Blenheim.

Tasting at Rock Ferry

Saint Clair Family Estate

As its name suggests, Saint Clair is another of Marlborough’s family-owned and operated wineries.  Neil and Judy Ibottson have been growing grapes in the area since 1978, making them pioneers in the Marlborough wine industry.

Entrance to Saint Clair

After selling their produce to other local growers, they created their own winery in 1994 and established Saint Clair Family Estate.  Since then, their son Tony and daughters Sarina and Julie have joined them in running the operation.

Inside Saint Clair winery

Saint Clair wines are some of New Zealand’s finest and have featured as best wines at many international wine festivals and events.  In fact, they have previously been ranked in the top 100 wineries in the world as well as ranking in the top 10 Chardonnays in the world!

Interestingly, one of our favourite wines that we tried at Saint Clair’s was their Albariño.  It is similar in taste to Sauvignon Blanc but a bit more on the citrusy side.   While this wine is quite popular in Portugal, it is a relatively new grape in New Zealand, and Saint Clair has done it justice!

Tasting at Saint Clair

If you are planning your own tour of the Marlborough Region be sure to use this map of the wineries.

Are there other Wine regions in New Zealand?

Yes!  Including Marlborough, New Zealand has 10 different wine regions spread across both islands.  Each region is unique and specializes in different wines due to the diverse nature of New Zealand’s climate and geography. 

 Here is a list of the 10 wine regions of New Zealand:

Wine RegionLocationSpecialty
AucklandNorth IslandBordeaux style blends, Chardonnay, Syrah
Canterbury/WaiparaSouth IslandPinot Noir, Riesling, Chardonnay
Central OtagoSouth IslandPinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Riesling
GizborneNorth IslandChardonnay
Hawkes BayNorth IslandCabernet Sauvignon, Merlot blends, Chardonnay
MarlboroughSouth IslandSauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris
NorthlandNorth IslandChardonnay
Weikeke IslandNorth IslandBordeaux Style Red blends
WairarapaNorth IslandPinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay
NelsonSouth IslandPinot Noir, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay

Aside from Marlborough, we also managed to get to a few wineries in Hawkes Bay and Weiheke Island.

Hawkes Bay wineries that we visited:

Linden Estate

The entrance to Linden Estate

Brookfields

Tasting at Brookfields

Sileni

The casual elegance of Sileni

Trinity Hill

The wine bar at Trinty Hill

Weiheke Island wineries that we visited:

Stoneyridge Vineyard

The patio at Stoneyridge

Wild Estate Winery

Tasting room at Wild Estate

Tantalus Estate

The vineyard at Tantalus Estate

The Final Word…Sharing the Most Popular Wine in New Zealand

So, we know that Sauvignon Blanc is the most popular wine in New Zealand.  We also know that the largest wine region in New Zealand is Marlborough, and it is one of the fastest growing wine regions in the world.  

One of the main reasons that we wanted to visit New Zealand is that we are both wine lovers and the Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough is by far Kim’s favourite wine.

But there are other wines and regions in New Zealand that are also worth visiting.  In fact, there are plenty of other reasons to visit New Zealand besides its signature wine.  Why not check out our blog on why we think New Zealand is worth visiting and add this beautiful country to your bucket list!

Amongst the vines in Marlborough