You love wine, but you crave a bottle with a light touch; something dry perhaps with elements of citrus, vibrant wild herbs, or tropical fruit notes; and you want it to be a white wine because wine with a darker color would impede upon your view of the shoreline as you idle in your sailboat on a glowy afternoon. You’re in luck; it’s sauvignon blanc.
The sauvignon blanc grape has origins in France’s Bordeaux and Loire Valley regions, but it’s grown so popular that you can find primo wines coming from every continent on earth, including notable hot spots in California and New Zealand. In fact, a bright California vintage takes our top spot in the Lieu Dit Sauvignon Blanc 2017.
And when you’re bombarded by new exciting sauvignon blancs from all over the world, the only way to sift through them all and try the very best is to let me do that for you. Below you'll find my curated list of the best sauvignon blancs to drink right now.
Best Overall: Lieu Dit Sauvignon Blanc 2017
Region: California, Santa Barbara | ABV: 12.6% | Tasting Notes: Lime zest, kiwi, lemon
From Eric Railsback and Justin Willett comes this Santa Ynez Valley laser-focused, mineral-bright white. California’s Central Coast is home to our top sauvignon blancs where the Santa Barbara micro-climates and marine-based soils come together to make truly brilliant wine. Sourced from three separate vineyards in the area, combining tank and barrel fermentation, Lieu Dit Winery proves itself to be a California nod to the French ethics of achieving wine perfection by way of an extreme acid trip.
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Best Under $20: Dough Sauvignon Blanc 2019
Region: California, North Coast | ABV: 14.5% | Tasting Notes: Lemon and grapefruit
Dough Wines was launched by Distinguished Vineyards & Wine Partners in formal support of the James Beard Foundation’s commitment to inclusive and equitable changes to the culture of culinary arts. This bottle of blanc comes at the hands of winemaker Heidi Bridenhagen, who’s known for pumping out over 200 wines for MacRostie Winery reaching scores into the 90s by major wine reviewers. She keeps the momentum going with this bargain beauty from California’s North Coast.
Best Splurge: Rudd Mt. Veeder Sauvignon 2019
Region: Napa | ABV: 14.5% | Tasting Notes: Lily, passion fruit, white peach
Rudd’s single-vineyard sauvignon blanc comes from high up in the Napa hills — 1,500 feet to be exact. When Leslie Rudd acquired these vines, they reached out to renowned Pouilly Fume winemaker Didier Dagueneau, who told them the soil was very similar to Loire Valley’s. So he planted sauvignon blanc and now, he makes a brilliant expression of the grape; lush and aromatic with lily and lime on the nose, with a lively but balanced and complex palate. While most sauvignon blancs are ready to drink immediately, this is a rare age-worthy option.
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Best Napa: Blackbird Vineyards Dissonance 2018
Region: California, Napa Valley | ABV: 13.2% | Tasting Note: Jasmine, honeysuckle, kiwi, yellow apple, white peach, Bosc pear
Winemaker Aaron Pott gets a good squeeze out of the fruit sourced from the crisp, cool climate in the higher altitudes of Carneros in Napa that makes this a noteworthy sauvignon blanc. And the hits from Blackbird keep coming: The 2018 vintage may win the Napa crown, but the also-superb 2019 vintage is just as worthy.
Best Sonoma: B.R. Cohn Sauvignon Blanc 2018
Region: California, Sonoma Valley | ABV: 13.5% | Tasting Note: Lime zest, poached pear, white peach, stone fruit, wet rock mineral finish
Sonoma Valley, with its cool coastal night and warm sunshine days, is an excellent place for growing exemplary sauvignon blanc. This bottle from B.R. Cohn has the added bonus of having been sourced from a vineyard that sits over underground hot springs that warms the soil and helps maintain ripening during those cool evenings—it is Sonoma’s best on this list because it balances the appellation’s characteristic acidity with generous fruit flavors.
Best California: Arnot-Roberts Sauvignon Blanc ‘Randle Hill’ Yorkville Highlands 2020
Region: Sonoma, California | ABV: 12.8% | Tasting Notes: Thai basil, green apple, lemon rind
Arnot-Roberts, made up of Duncan Arnot Meyers and Nathan Lee Roberts, is part of an exciting new guard of California winemakers, as obvious in their handling of sauvignon blanc. Made with grapes from a single vineyard in Mendocino County, it’s saline and herbaceous like a sancerre but has the lemony, apple notes of a New Zealand sauvignon blanc. It’s their first dabble with the grape — just ten barrels were produced with more to come each vintage — so it’s pricier than most, but it’s a great conversation bottle about the potential of California Sauvignon (the other one).
Best French: Ladoucette Pouilly-Fume 2018
Region: France, Pouilly-Fume, Loire | ABV: 12.5% | Tasting Notes: Floral, lemon, lime, honey
The Ladoucette estate looks like it was ripped from a fairytale with its castle-like château. The land was once owned by the illegitimate daughter of King Louis XV but has been in the Ladoucette Family’s hands since 1787 making nothing but some of the most highly-regarded white wines in all the world. Their 2018 sauvignon blanc pairs perfectly with the estate’s majesty; the perfect wine for after a long day of slaying dragons. It is refreshingly light and dry while still balanced and medium-bodied.
Best Budget: Dashwood Sauvignon Blanc 2019
Region: New Zealand, Marlborough | ABV: 13% | Tasting Notes: Grapefruit, pineapple, lychee, passion fruit
One rule of thumb when it comes to sauvignon blanc is that you can often be assured that if it comes from New Zealand, it’s a doozy of a bottle. The country’s oceanic climate makes for ideal grape-growing conditions, and in particular, the Marlborough region in the South Island’s northern edge is famous for its particular brands of blanc. What Dashwood has above its neighbors is award-winning winemaker Stu Marfell. This 2019 vintage is a fine example of that New Zealand flavor. The dry white wine is grassy and spicy on the back end, making for an absolutely scrumptious pour. Pair it with shellfish and salad.
Best South Africa: NV Steenberg Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc
Region: South Africa, Western Cape, Constantia | ABV: 12.5% | Tasting Notes: Peach, green apple, melon, mango
Nestled in the cape that gives Cape Town its name, the Steenberg Estate benefits immensely from the land’s natural terroir. The area’s micro-climate combined with the lean soils of decomposed granite makes it one of South Africa’s top spots for making cool, refreshing sauvignon blanc. And to make it even more refreshing, this one has bubbles. This sparkling wine zips over the tongue with great vigor. Best served cold on a hot summer’s day, but that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying it in the wintertime too.
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Best Italian: Sun Goddess Sauvignon Blanc
Region: Friuli, Italy | ABV: 12.5% | Tasting Notes: Green apple, lemon pith, melon
While celebrity cosigns certainly aren’t always a hallmark of quality in the alcohol world, Mary J Blige’s wine project is a lovely representation of a Friuli-Venezia sauvignon blanc That’s thanks in part to Marco Fantinel, the winemaker who collaborated with the R&B artist on a ramato-style pinot grigio and a sauvignon blanc. Friuli’s cool alpine climate mixed with the warm breezes coming in off the Adriatic makes for a luscious, tropical, slightly mineral sauvignon blancs. A fresh, mineral-driven bottle to pair with a seafood spread.
Best Chilean: Matetic EQ Coastal 2019
Region: Chile, Casablanca Valley | ABV: 13.5% | Tasting Notes: Pineapple, mango, papaya, grapefruit
One of the great things about growing wine in Chile is that you’re never too far from Pacific coastal breezes and Matetic Vineyards, a fully organic and biodynamic estate, is right in the pocket. As a bonus for the drinker, this high-caliber bottle somehow sells for an outrageously low price which makes one feel like a bandit and a wine connoisseur all at once. Don’t let the screw cap scare you away; underneath is a tropical paradise. It's fruity and crisp with a minerally texture and a long satisfying finish.
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Best Organic: Bonterra Sauvignon Blanc California 2019
Region: California | ABV: 13.2% | Tasting Notes: Lime zest, lemon curd, white flowers, lemongrass, and tart green apple
Although winemaker Jeff Cichocki doesn’t live and die by it, he does follow the celestial calendar to help him make decisions on farming his grapes. After all, they are not just organically farmed, they are biodynamically farmed as well and that philosophy is deeply ingrained in the spirit energy of their vines—which translates to one of the most energetic and best organic sauvignon blancs out there.
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Best New Zealand: Jules Taylor Sauvignon Blanc
Region: Marlborough, New Zealand | ABV: 13% | Tasting Notes: Citrus, lemongrass, and mint
Many declare Jules Taylor as the de facto queen of sauvignon blanc, with New Zealand’s Marlborough region acting as her kingdom. She started her own label in 2001 with just 200 cases of sauvignon blanc and now, she holds the title of New Zealand’s best winemaker. Her wines underline that – pleasant, easy-drinking but interesting, with ripe citrus and slightly floral notes. They’re lively and energetic; the wine equivalent to fresh spring blooms.
You’d be well intentioned to keep a bottle of California’s Lieu Dit Sauvignon Blanc in your fridge at all times. Same with Jules Taylor’s – she makes an approachable yet elegant option for everyday sipping. If you’re looking to spend a little more, Rudd’s single vineyard Sauvignon Blanc is incredibly unique.
What to Look For
Sauvignon blancs can hail from all over the world. Bottles from the Loire or Friuli tend to be lighter in style and more savory in palate, while options from New Zealand and California often have more body.
Wines can vary greatly in ABV, from brighter more sessionable bottles to bolder options to down with caution. Choose one accordingly!
What pairs well with sauvignon blanc? Luckily, sauvignon blanc pairs well with almost everything, from pad thai to richer cheese dishes. Try chilling a bottle heavily and serving it with charcuterie or other appetizers at the beginning of a meal.
What are the key qualities of sauvignon blanc?
Sauvignon blanc is touted as a food-friendly, highly quenching wine, perfect for anything you’d squeeze a lemon on. While regional nuances will differ slightly, sauvignon blancs are bone dry with high acidity, intense aromas, and notes of white peach, honeydew melon, and subtle herb. Outside of those overarching characteristics, sauvignon blanc can range in profile from lean and grassy to vibrant and fuller-bodied.
What's the most popular region for SB?
Sauvignon blanc is an incredibly versatile grape and can grow around the world. Northern Italy’s Friuli and Trentino-Alto Adige regions make beautiful iterations of the grape, with crisp stone fruit and subtle savory notes. The Loire Valley in France is famous for their sauvignon blancs, specifically in Sancerre, Pouilly-Fume, Cheverny, and Touraine. (Note that these regions often skip labeling the grape on their bottles!) Expect options here to be dry, refreshing, grassy, and citrus-driven with high levels of acid. In New Zealand, sauvignon blanc is the country’s most planted grape variety. Outside of these major regions, expect beautiful bottles to come from California, Chile, South Africa, and Australia.
At what temp should it be stored?
Keep sauvignon blanc at the same temperature as your Bordeaux blancs and other serious whites; around 48°F. Like most wines, age your sauvignon blanc at a consistent temperature in a cool, dark place. Most sauvignon blancs won’t benefit from age, so drink your bottles within a few years!
What temp should it be served?
Serve your Sauvignon Blanc chilled, preferably to between 45 and 55 degrees fahrenheit to maintain that racy acidity.
Why Trust Liquor.com?
Jonathan Cristaldi has written about wine and spirits for over a decade. He regularly tastes wines from around the globe, and personally tasted every wine in this roundup. Cristaldi was named a "Wine Prophet" by Time Out New York for his witty and often avant-garde approach to wine education.
Kate Dingwall, who updated this article, is a wine and spirits writer and working sommelier at one of Canada’s top restaurant groups. She holds her WSET III and regularly writes for SOMM, Wine Enthusiast, and InsideHook.