WineHandpicked by IWSC

10 top New Zealand white wines to try

‘Bracing’, ‘honeyed’, ‘fruity’… Find more than just the country’s signature Sauvignon Blanc in this list of award-winning New Zealand white wines from the IWSC 2021

Words by IWSC Judges

new zealand vineyard sheep
Handpicked by IWSC

The cool, maritime climate and long sunshine hours in the South Pacific ensure that New Zealand white wines retain plenty of natural acidity. Although the most defining area of wine production in the country is Marlborough, where some of the best Sauvignon Blancs are famously made, there are plenty of good white wines to be found from other grapes and in other regions. But still, there’s no denying that Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc has become among the best-known styles of wine in the world, thanks to characteristically ripe flavours of passionfruit and citrus, and occasionally pungent, greener aromas like peppers, tomato leaf, grass and even asparagus.

You’ll find a typically citrusy Sauvignon Blanc in the list below: IWSC judges were impressed by the Ara Resolute Organic Sauvignon Blanc 2019’s aromas of ‘lemon and lime peel, cucumber, lemon curd hints, and ripe stone fruits’ labelling it a ‘seductive wine with a rounded rich palate.’

marlborough sauvignon blanc
Vineyards in Marlborough, where the majority of the country's Sauvignon Blanc is produced

Although it makes up 72 per cent of New Zealand’s wine production, Sauvignon Blanc isn’t the only grape in town. Other New Zealand white wines like Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Riesling are becoming more established, with Chardonnay in particular evolving from the heavily oaked style it was known for 30 years ago to wines that are fine and restrained, and offer good ageing potential. One such example is Delta Estate Wines’ Hatters Hill Chardonnay 2020, which scored 92 points from the IWSC for its ‘fresh and appealing’ nature and ‘long, creamy and delightfully nutty finish.’

Pinot Gris wines are fine here too, even though production has only been in place since the 1990s. New Zealand white wines made from the European grape are closer to Alsace than Italy in style – typically richer and more aromatic than Italian Pinot Grigio. In fact, the top-scoring New Zealand white wine in the below selection is Waimea Estates’ Pinot Gris 2021, which scored an impressive 93 points for its ‘vivacious acidity and a decent weight that bears pleasant fruit at the bracing finish.’

Waimea Estates
Barrels in the Waimea Estates winery where a Silver Medal-winning Pinot Gris is made

Rising-star styles like Riesling tend to err on the peachy side in New Zealand, with honeyed notes and a silky texture. One such wine is Silver Medal winner Waipara West Riesling 2013, which judges praised as being ‘delicately spiced’ with ‘layers of baked peaches, caramel, yoghurt and honey’ on the palate.

Although none appear on this top ten list, it’s important to note that plantings of Gewürztraminer, Arneis, Grüner Veltliner, Verdelho, Viognier and even Albariño are making progress on the island and perhaps you’ll see a bottle or two on next year’s selection from the IWSC. In the meantime, read on for ten top bottles of New Zealand white wine as tasted and rated by the experts.

white wine grapes in a vineyard in new zealand

HOW DO WE JUDGE THESE WINES?

We run a tightly structured, rigorous wine tasting process. That means that each wine sample is pre-poured into numbered glasses and assessed blindly by the judges. Most importantly, our IWSC wine judges are experts in their field, who work across all sectors of the wine industry. For evidence, see our full list of judges.

HOW DO WE SCORE THESE WINES?

Only the best wines sampled receive a Gold or Silver award. For example, to win Gold, wines have to score between 95 and 100 points. Meanwhile, Silver wines range from 90 to 94 points. Click here to read more on our scoring system.

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