It’s Still A Savalanche

Many wine-lovers are surprised to find that sauvignon blanc is Australia’s second most widely planted white grape variety.

Considering the Kiwis have been hogging the savvy spotlight for many years, there’s a popular belief that sauvignon blanc is a one-horse race, and Australia isn’t even in the field. 

Well, yes and no: 17 of the top 20 selling sauvignon blancs in the Australian retail market are from New Zealand – but Jacob’s Creek (tastings) is eighth on the list and Lindemans Bin 95 (tastings) is twelfth.

Shaw + Smith (tastings) is 19th, and Jacob’s Creek’s other sauvignon blanc, Cool Harvest, is 25th.

Just for the record, number one seller is still Oyster Bay (tastings), with Giesen (tastings) and Stoneleigh (tastings) second and third.

But getting back to those Australian vine plantings.

The 2013 harvest statistics, as I mentioned here a few weeks ago, show chardonnay was Australia’s most planted grape with 397,000 tonnes of grapes gathered, but sauvignon blanc was in second place with 98,000 tonnes. Semillon was third with 77,000 tonnes; muscat gordo blanco was fourth with 70,000; colombard was fifth with 66,000; pinot gris / grigio was sixth with 62,000 and riesling was seventh with 31,000 tonnes.

It’s impressive how quickly pinot gris/grigio has risen to be double the number of the stalwart, riesling. Muscat, colombard and semillon are of course multi-use grapes, and a minority of this fruit would be marketed as varietal wine in a bottle. That said, a sizeable proportion of the muscat is probably finding its way into semi-sweet, lightly fizzy bottled wine labeled ‘moscato’, which is enormously popular.

If you are worried that Australia has too many eggs in the shiraz basket (it’s our most-planted grape, with 24% of the nation’s crush, or 432,000 tonnes harvested in 2013) consider New Zealand and its national grape, sauvignon blanc.

Sixty-six per cent (66%) of New Zealand’s winegrape harvest was sauvignon blanc in 2013. Yes, the nation is exposed. But there’s no sign the world is tiring of it yet. What a phenomenon the Kiwi savalanche is! 

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