The standard for New Zealand sauvignon blanc – almost always among the world’s best – has been, for the past several years, Kim Crawford.

His wine, which costs around $15, always tastes fresh and appropriately citrusy, and is an excellent example of well-made sauvignon blanc in the New Zealand style. But in the past couple of years, several labels, including Whitehaven and Spy Valley, have consistently turned out comparably priced and equally tasty wines.

Why New Zealand sauvignon blanc? First is the quality, which stands up to the best in France and California. I don’t know that I’ve ever had a bad sauvignon blanc from New Zealand, even when it was less than $10. Second is the price-value ratio, which keeps improving year after year. The best $15 wines are comparable to $20-plus wines elsewhere, and the $10 wines are just plain standouts. Third, the Kiwis pioneered the use of screw tops, and many of these wines use them.

Yes, many people still don’t appreciate sauvignon blanc (it’s more difficult to say then chardonnay), but that’s their loss. It’s a terrific everyday wine, with everything from roast chicken to steamed mussels to salad Nicoise. Just serve it chilled.

  • $15 or so: There’s nothing wrong with the Kim Crawford, but try Spy Valley and Whitehaven. Neither has quite the citrus that the Crawford does, but are still classic New Zealand wines. Both compared favorably to a $25 Sancerre (the region in France that produces the best sauvignon blanc) when I tasted them.
  • $10 or so: Take your pick between Nobilio, Brancott and Villa Maria. They aren’t as sophisticated as the $15 wines, which means a more aggressive citrus style (lots of grapefruit) and not much of the mineral finish that the best sauvignon blancs are known for.

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