It’s not that I can’t stop drinking Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc in an unhealthy way (honest, mum). But it’s true that whenever I’m in a pub or bar and I fancy a nice glass of something white, my go-to is always a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.
It’s not the cheapest tipple and quite often I’ve wished I could get more into house whites or less spendy choices: even when I couldn’t afford to spend twenty quid on a bottle of wine I’d try and edge my drinking pals towards a Wetherspoons where they used to sell a not-bad-at-all Villa Maria Marlborough for a bargainous £14.
I was always a snob, even as a student.
There is the odd time I stray from the Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, but I always do it with trepidation. My favourite local sells a Picpoul de Pinet that I very much like, and I know (on special occasions) I can happily sip on a Chablis 1ier Cru. Once, back in 2013, I even chose a white Burgundy on the recommendation of a Sommelier and it was very nice indeed.
But, with wine being as costly as it is, I’m terrified of going rogue on a wine list and making an expensive mistake that’ll only leave me with a bad alcohol-based taste in my mouth (and, if I’m really unlucky, a white wine headache).
Luckily my new friend Ben, who runs the boutique wine company Our Glass with my friend Rachel’s husband Martin (still with me?), is here to the rescue.
“Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc is a favourite among British drinkers” he agrees, “with the majority of supermarket Marlboroughs following a high volume/low price/low margin model”.
The first New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs were produced in the 1970s, with the first of note coming out of what is now my good pal Brancott Estate. With a wine-friendly climate of long, warm days and cool nights alongside an acidity-enhancing maritime influence, minimum rainfall at harvest and free-draining soil, Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc has now become the region’s biggest export, with mile upon mile of vineyards to be found.
This Marlborough effect has me feeling, well, a bit boring when it comes to my wine order. And so I drilled Ben for some ideas that’d give me comparable drinks when it came to my dry white:
Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc: The Alternatives
Loire Sauvignon Blanc: this is wine Kiwi Sauv Blanc is actually based on. Loire examples are typically greener fruited and very dry, with less sugar than typical variants of Marlborough. Loire SB is leaner and less easy going than Kiwi Sauvignon Blancs, taking the crunchy green fruit to 11.
Muscadet: hailing from the village of the same name in the Loire, these are salty, tangy whites that are made for drinking with fish. Straight up Muscadet is full of crisp and crunchy green fruit with a salty tang, and Muscadet sur lie is proper bonanza, excitingly weird with a yeasty off-note (it is nicer than it sounds). Muscadet is typically drier than your usual Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.
Picpoul de Pinet: similar to Muscadet but further south in France, this area is warmer which means the wines are richer with more sugar. These are very friendly wines which are perhaps the most straight up comparison to Kiwi SB combining crunchy, green fruit, sweet fruit and acidity.
Pinot Grigio: non-industrial Pinot Grigio is delicious and typically balances fruit and acidity beautifully. Avoid the more industrial plonk from the flat land, which unfortunately includes most supermarket examples, and instead seek out producers who are in the northern hills of Italy, an area called the the Veneto. Pinot Grigio has similar balance to Kiwi SB with sweetness, yellow stone fruit and green fruit.
Ourglass sell wine countrywide with no minimum order and free delivery. I know it’s not important, but I love the labels on all the wines they sell. Ben put these words together for me and sent me a couple bottle of wines to try: my palate will forever thank him for it.