Summer’s coming and you better be prepared. Sunscreen? Check. New grilling tools? Check. New shorts and fresh Tevas? Check. Refreshing white wine? I’m all out, how about you?

It’s time to reload on the best summer refreshers and when it comes to summer, my mind tends to wander to Sauvignon Blanc. It’s cool, crisp, mouthwateringly refreshing, aromatic and just plain fun. That is what the summer should be all about.

Among the most popular Sauvignon Blanc wines are New Zealand’s Sauvies, as they’re know down there. What makes Kiwi Sauvies so refreshing? It’s mostly the cool and sunny climate which translates into that crisp, juicy style filled with remarkably pungent aromas of grass, jalapeño, gooseberry and the ever curious cat pee!

All those aromatics are usually layered over wonderfully attractive citrus fruits, making New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc an ideal wine to pair with lighter summer dishes of fish and shellfish or even salads, as the vibrant acidity in most Kiwi Sauvies is more than enough to stand up to most dressed salads.

While the so-called “New Zealand style” of Sauvignon Blanc has gained widespread popularity around the globe, fueling the growth and promotion of this style, it’s not the only style grown in New Zealand. In fact, the increased global competition in the “NZ style” space has pushed producers to begin to experiment with styles that are less familiar in New Zealand, like the wood aged styles that are more common in France and California.

All this experimentation and the wide variety of terroirs in New Zealand paint a much more complex picture than many consumers assume, though there is nothing wrong with turning to New Zealand for your most refreshing Sauvignon Blanc desires. It’s good to know that the choices available to consumers are continuing to increase, particularly in light of the developments in New Zealand (maturing vines and the identification of particularly noteworthy vineyard sites).
While some of the wines from these sites really are performing on another level, many of which are included here, they may not be what everybody thinks of or wants when they go looking for a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc. After all, it is time for summer, a short season of simple pleasures and a bit of frivolity, so don’t shy away from some of the simpler expressions included here. They’ll add so much brightness and refreshment to your day that you won’t be able to help but enjoy them!

Photo courtesy of Kate Dreyer via Flickr/cc

2011 Trinity Hill Sauvignon Blanc

Fragrant, spiced green fruit with gooseberry. Lightly herbal on the nose with a bit of melon and fig, then pure and intense passion fruit and grapefruit aromas. Tense on the palate, much more so than the nose would lead you to believe. Fine bright fruit, green apple, green plum, gooseberry and pineapple all wrapped up in a lovely refreshing feel. Sapid and tangy, really refreshing style with a fine, long finish. 92pts

2010 Dog Point Section 94 Sauvignon Blanc

Very complex on the nose with notes of smoky flint, dried chili, roast chili, a hint of sulfur, and more vegetal notes. A bit of green bean, green pea. This is a very broad and soft vintage for Section 94, lacking some of the firmness of previous vintages but making up for it with a round, almost lush mouth-feel. The flavors here are mostly orchard fruit tones with only hints of tropical character, though good acids drive the finish, adding some verve back into the equation. Juicy lemon tones on finale. 90pts

2011 Joyner Sauvignon Blanc

Kiwi, fig and melon yield a rather fruity nose but not in the green end of the spectrum, with hints of smoke and green tomato. Bright and ripe but with huge acid cut, nice richness. Zesty, deep finish, succulent and complex with a hint of fig on the finale, along with a green spice. Spicy gooseberry finish. 90pts

2011 Saint Clair Block 18 Sauvignon Blanc

Pretty on the nose with floral, vegetal notes that recall lemon grass and sweaty flowers. This has a great texture. Silky and bright with juicy Meyer lemon fruit on the entry followed by potassium minerality. The palate delivers layers of apple, passion fruit and citrus notes that are perfumed on the long, crisp finish, ending with a lovely pithy finale. 90pts

2011 Neudorf Sauvignon Blanc

Kiwi at first and then almost apricot, with pear and white orchard fruits covered with lime leaf and grapefruit pith notes. Super bright and very fine on entry with very clear grapefruit and passion fruit flavors. Fine acid adds length with a little old wood here adding roundness. There’s a nice return on the finale of pithy though sweet fruit. Almost salty, savory, Fino sherry type umami on finale. 90pts

2011 Highfield Sauvignon Blanc

Intense and very citrussy on the nose with almost a hint of creaminess. This is spicy on the nose with some grass, passion fruit and a little guava exoticism. Fine tension on entry with citrussy, integrated acids, clarity from dryness and cut green fruit. Really very fine, delicate texture and acid zest with a hint of minerality that washes the finish. 90pts

2011 Vavasour Sauvignon Blanc

A big roasted pepper character on the nose that’s both grassy and vegetal while remaining lively and freshly citrussy. Bright, lean and mineral on the palate with nice cut and a sweet edge of green kiwi fruit up front. Rather complete with nice length. Ripe, rich and zesty. 89pts

2011 Tupari Sauvignon Blanc

Vegetal on the nose with a base of lemon verbena accented by thin asparagus and green pepper notes. Round, lush and juicy on the palate. Lovely texture. This has fine focus, melon and lime oil notes. Zesty, tight, assertive and stern finish. Citrus pith and stones, good length, almost subtle and nicely detailed. 89pts

2011 Craggy Range Sauvignon Blanc

Fresh on the nose with typical slightly spicy, floral, grapefruit and lightly vegetal set of aromatics. Moderately rich on entry with nice fruit; clean, crisp and refreshing. Nice cool pineapple and gooseberry fruit. Grapefruit pith on the tight finish turns more complex and less profusely aromatic with time in the glass. 89pts

2011 Two Rivers Sauvignon Blanc

Distinctly full of vegetal aromas, particularly cut grass which is accented by notes of sweet peas and asparagus. Vibrant and succulent. A bit of sweet pea on entry followed by rather peachy, ripe fruit. Good acid backbone refreshes the palate. A bit of green fruit on the back end, with a nice finish. A solid showing in a rather vegetal register. 88pts

2011 Wairau River Sauvignon Blanc

Intense and complete on the nose with layers of grass, chilies, fresh zesty citrus fruit and dusty guava aromas. Big, rich and intense in the mouth. This is powerful and a bit dense with lots of follow-through. The succulent fruit is intense on the back end with grapefruit, guava and cut grass notes that are rich and fruity but not sweet. Really nice clarity on the palate. 88pts

2011 Spy Valley Sauvignon Blanc

Soft on the nose with green apple, pea tendril, cut green fruit and tomato leaf aromas. Medium body with a lovely texture, gauzy with a rich core of fruit. Gentle shadings of roasted chili to the crisp fruit lead to a soft, dry and nicely layered finish. This is mouthwatering. Plays a bit safe but in a very satisfying, middle of the road style. 88pts

2011 Huia Sauvignon Blanc

Nutty and toasty on the nose with roasted apple fruit topped with nuanced floral and herbal spice notes. Lean but with good richness and fine balance. Focused flavors show a little hickory nut on top of the apple and yellow fruit flavors. Finishes with finesse and tension if toasty, and a touch roasted fruit. 88pts

2011 Te Mania Sauvignon Blanc

Fresh on the nose and full of cut grass and jalapeño but with balance and an earthy base of golden kiwi fruit. Bright on entry and medium bodied, with plenty of retained CO2 adding a light spritz. This has nice intensity of fruit. High acid makes this fairly dry, though the ripeness shows some peachy character. The acid really drives the finish which offers up succulent citrussy acidity. 88pts

2010 Te Mata Sauvignon Blanc

Earthy and more herbal than peppery on the nose with light notes of nettles and rather assertive tropical fruit. Moderately intense guava notes with some hints of passion fruit and pineapple, and just an edge of cut grass. Fine focus in the mouth. This is bright yet shows some restraint with well layered if slightly subtle flavors. The back end shows nice ripe citrus and orange notes, finishing cleanly with a touch of saltiness and nice pithy flavor. Good length, nice river stone note on the finale. 88pts

2011 Highfield Rain Sauvignon Blanc

Pretty aromatic though floral more so than vegetal, with nice citrus, fresh cut grass and herb notes. Soft on the palate with good acids, but with plenty of flesh creating a nice texture with good cut and fine tension. This offers up lots of lime and lemon fruit with a hint of pithy mouth-grab. 87pts

2011 Richmond Plains Sauvignon Blanc

Less intensely herbal than many NZ Sauvies with more orchard fruit and sage, topped with notes of oregano. This is also rounder, lusher and softer than many examples, with a little less verve and ripe fruit that tends to the peachy end of the spectrum. 87pts

2011 Saint Clair Premium Sauvignon Blanc

Quite precise on the nose with distinct chili, spice, herb and green fruit aromas. There is nice focus on the palate as well, rich with guava and passion fruit underpinned by vibrant, succulent acidity and a touch of minerality. This finishes with more pink grapefruit aromatics and zest. 87pts

2011 Lake Chalice Sauvignon Blanc

Mineral, flinty powder, floral, grass, melon. Gentle and balanced with all the classic notes. Bright, cut and fruit-driven entry. Fairly rich core though this is large framed and rather well balanced. This is easy to drink but delivers fair complexity. Tight, dusty finish. Almost a touch of savory umami. 87pts

2011 Georges Michel Sauvignon Blanc

Smoky and nutty on the nose with aromas of cooked chilies, bruised chilies, cut grass and a bit of apricot. Rather fine texturally with a bit of bologna on the palate; smoky, fatty, salty, all cut with mineral edge. The mid-palate offers up cut grass and gooseberry jam flavors that turn berried and a bit nutty on the back end. Sapid, savory finish. 87pts

2011 Auntsfield Sauvignon Blanc

Aromatic with green pea and pea flower. A little one dimensional and a touch smoky. Really bright on entry with huge acid cut. Very front loaded. Big with grapefruit oil, orange and almost passion fruity. Big follow-through on the sharp finish. Zesty plus, maybe too zesty. 86pts

2011 Tohu Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc

Intense with plenty of cat pee, pineapple and a hint of jalapeño on the nose. Nice and bright. Fluid in the mouth if a touch dilute with classic gooseberry and cat pee flavors. Could use more stuffing but in the classic aromatic style. 86pts

2011 Astrolabe Sauvignon Blanc

A little cooked, smells a little like airline food. Green pepper, toasty, meaty with chicken base. Lively with a tender texture, but this has a weird nutty, meaty quality to it. Excellent clarity, cooked chili, fruit. Succulent, super savory finish with cactus pad. Man, is this intensely aromatic on the finish. Green, cooked green. Not sure what to think here. 86pts

2011 Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc

Cut grass, passion fruit and a little grapefruit come together on the nose with some poblano and gooseberry top notes. Rich, quite ripe and large scaled with big grapefruit and light passion fruits in the mouth. Zesty acids, good length and nice, pithy though sweet juicy citrus flavors. 86pts