Survive the sauvalanche! Keep an eye out for cheap imitators…


By Tom Hollings
Tom is the owner of innovative online wine store,, which sources and sells unique and small production wines from Australia’s best boutique wineries.

In the space of 10 years, sauvignon blanc came, saw and conquered the Australian wine market, claiming as much as 40 per cent of the white wine currently purchased in our shops, bars and restaurants.

The overwhelming majority of that comes from the Marlborough region of New Zealand, a fact not lost on local Aussie wineries who have faced an almighty fight in the face of this Kiwi ‘Sauvalanche’.

But while the early sauvignon blanc pioneers were quality-driven and making some exceptionally pure and characterful white wines, recent years have seen a flood of cheap imitators, sacrificing quality for quantity and cashing in on the variety’s fame.


This might mean cheap prices right now for your white wine drinking customers, but the fact is the quality and diversity of these wines is rapidly fading away. Quality conscious wine lovers are all too aware of this, and so if you want to stay ahead of the game it’s important you know which white varieties are on the move and what to serve in sauvignon blanc’s place.

Resurgence of the old

Riesling and semillon, two iconic wine varieties that have felt the sauvignon blanc wrath more than most, are gaining ground.  A combination of intensive marketing efforts including the New South Wales wine festival (for semillon) and the Summer of Riesling have been effective, as have clever winemaking adjustments to produce fruit with more sauv blanc-esque ripeness and fruit-forward flavours.

Discovery of the new

In grapes like pinot gris/grigio, savagnin, vermentino, fiano, albarino and gewurztraminer, we’ve identified other fruit-driven varieties able to substitute sauv blanc. Whether imported or made by local producers, their quality and popularity is definitely increasing, as evidenced by their ever-growing presence on wine lists and store shelves around the country.

Sauvignon blanc the way it’s meant to be

Many Aussie winemakers have gone in the opposite direction and focused on quality and diversity. By utilising only the best fruit and giving the wine extra ‘winemaking’ (eg. fermentation in oak barrels, time on its lees, wild yeasts, etc), we’re seeing wines with depth, weight and complexity.  They have a greater ability to age, and also match much better with food. When done well, these wines still have all the freshness and zestyness that sauvignon blanc should, but with the complexity and balance that you’d expect to see in premium chardonnay.

The best French sauvignon blancs come from Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume in the Loire Valley, and when serving local versions look to Adelaide Hills, Orange, Geelong and Margaret River.

If all your customers are after is a cheap and fruity drink then by all means stick with Marlborough sauvignon blanc, but if you’ve got wine lovers looking to try something new, look to the above options as a starting point. Let’s end the sauvalanche!

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