Exploring the Distinctions Between Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc Wines in BC and New ZealandPR SAMPLE 

Canada and New Zealand flagsPinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc wines from New Zealand and British Columbia have a similar history with the growth in quality Vitis Vinifera wine production.  I will concentrate on the Marlborough region of New Zealand and the Okanagan Valley primarily plus the Similkameen for BC for this post. Vitis Vinifera grapes were first planted experimentally in the mid-1970s in BC with 13 wineries in production by 1984.  Although wine grapes were grown earlier in the 20th century, the 1970s saw a movement to quality wine production in New Zealand.  Overseas competition helped to spur or push both regions into quality wine production.  Let’s delve into the differences between Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc wines from BC and New Zealand.

Wineries in New Zealand are known for producing fruit-forward and aromatic wines, showcasing the region’s cool climate and diverse terroir. British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley is an extension of the Sonora Desert (although some people assert that it is only an arid location) which gives the Valley a hot, dry summer climate, and gets cooler the further north you travel in the Valley.  Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc wines are typically grown in the cooler middle and northern half of the Okanagan Valley.  The Similkameen Valley arranged east-west in the mountains receives significant winds which again provides a drying and cooling effect for the vineyards. 

The Marlborough region of New Zealand is probably the most well-known grape-growing area in the country.  Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir made wine drinkers around the world take notice.  New Zealand has a maritime climate, when combined with high sunshine hours creates an ideal environment for grape growing. Marlborough’s proximity to the Pacific Ocean and Cook Strait also moderates the climate, reducing the risk of extreme temperatures and providing a stable growing season.

I have a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir wine from BC and New Zealand to review below as a starting point to discuss the similarities and differences between our wines.  

My Wine Tasting Notes

Bench 1775 Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2022 (BC $23.75)

Appearance: A clear, bright medium-intensity lemon-green colour in the glass.
Nose: Medium-plus intensity lively aromas of citrus and green fruit, gooseberries, lime skin, a touch of grape stem and a hint of stone fruit. The wine has a stronger, more fruity nose after decanting.
Palate: Dry, fuller body, with a smooth, round, thicker mouthfeel.  Medium-plus acidity that leaves a light acidic prickle on your tongue.  A mix of citrus and green fruit, plus gooseberry and touches of grape stem, stone fruit and pepperiness on the palate.  Honey and apricot flavours toward the finish.  No change to the flavours with decanting.
Finish: A medium-plus length finishing with citrus, honey, and apricots lingering flavours.  Some pepperiness, floral and green fruits as well. No change after decanting.

A quality wine.  No need to decant.  Enjoy at your leisure.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Bench 1775 Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2022 and Framingham Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2021 with wines in glasses
Bench 1775 Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2022 and Framingham Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2021 with wines in glasses

Framingham Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2021 (BC $36.98)

Appearance: A deeper clear lemon colour.
Nose: Medium-minus intensity restrained nose with aromas of pine needles, toastiness, citrus, green fruit and with swirling some jalapeno pepper. The aromas bump up to medium intensity, less restrained after decanting.
Palate: This wine is dry with a medium-plus body, and a thicker, roundish to lean mouthfeel.  Green fruit and citrus flavours, plus touches of floral, green peas, and jalapeno pepper.  Light acidic prickle to start then smoothes out mid palate to the end.  Medium-plus acidity.  No change to the palate after decanting.
Finish: A medium-plus length finishing with tart fruit flavours plus jalapeno pepper and light pepperiness.  A smooth finish.  Same flavours after decanting, but the flavours are more tart.

A quality wine.  No need to decant.  Enjoy at your leisure.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Robin Ridge Similkameen Valley Pinot Noir 2021 (BC $28.25 from the winery)

Appearance: A deep, clear garnet colour.  Consistent colour from rim to core.
Nose: Medium-intensity aromas of red cherries, red fruits, and raspberries, plus touches of toast and oak.  Elegant aromas. Lighter aromas after decanting, but you now get some sweet candied cherries and a hint of floral.
Palate: This wine is dry, smooth and round with a light mouthfeel.  Sweet red cherries, red plums and a touch of floral on the palate.  I also picked up some minerality and oak on the mid-palate to the finish. With swirling you can add candied red cherry flavour. Light tannins and medium acidity. Maybe a bit lighter mouthfeel and leaner after decanting, but no change to the flavour profile.
Finish: A medium-plus length finishing with medium-intensity tannins; not grippy.  Sweet red cherries, raspberries and light pepperiness on the palate, then some hotness at the very end.  A leaner, lighter mouthfeel and lighter tannins to the finish after decanting.

An elegant quality Pinot Noir.  Do not decant.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Robin Ridge Similkameen Valley Pinot Noir 2021 and Marisco Vineyards The Ned Marlborough Pinot Noir 2020 with wines in glasses
Robin Ridge Similkameen Valley Pinot Noir 2021 and Marisco Vineyards The Ned Marlborough Pinot Noir 2020 with wines in glasses

Marisco Vineyards The Ned Marlborough Pinot Noir 2020 (BC $19.99 on sale at BC Liquor stores till June 1, 2024)

Appearance: A clear medium-intensity garnet colour.  About 55% opaque.
Nose: Medium-plus intensity aromas, quite toasty with red fruits in the background. The aromas are lighter after decanting, less toast and more fruity.
Palate: Dry with a soft, smooth, light mouthfeel.  Light red fruit and red cherry flavours, plus some black tea leaves on the mid-palate and hints of floral and toast.  The body increases to mediumplus after decanting and you get a thicker mouthfeel.  
Finish: Medium-plus length finishing with candied red cherry flavour, plus some pepperiness and toast. More acidity than tannins on the finish.  No change to the flavours at the finish, but you do get a thicker mouthfeel.

A wine with restrained flavours.  Better to decant and reduce the toastiness.

Rating: 4 stars 

Comparing BC and NZ Wines

Comparing one BC Pinot Noir wine and Sauvignon Blanc wine against one from New Zealand does not make sense.  We need to increase the sample size, so I went into my past articles and extracted at least four more reviews I had of these wines from New Zealand and BC, and added these to the descriptions for the wines reviewed in this article to produce 4 word clouds, which should help us notice which aromas and/or flavours seem to be most prominent for BC and New Zealand.

Sauvignon Blanc

BC Sauvignon Blanc word cloud
BC Sauvignon Blanc word cloud
New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc word cloud
New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc word cloud

The largest words for BC Sauvignon Blanc are lemon, peach, and citrus followed by lime, acidic, medium, round, and dry.  The largest words for New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc are gooseberry, and jalapeno followed by medium, acidity, citrus, green, and dry.  There are indeed differences.  The BC Sauvignon Blanc points more toward warmer, stone fruit aromas and flavours while NZ Sauvignon Blanc toward cooler gooseberry and jalapeno pepper green aromas and flavours. Herbal also shows up on the NZ Sauvignon Blanc while I do not notice it in the BC Sauvignon Blanc.

Pinot Noir

BC Pinot Noir word cloud
BC Pinot Noir word cloud
New Zealand Pinot Noir word cloud
New Zealand Pinot Noir word cloud

The largest words for BC Pinot Noir are cherries, red fruit, light, sweet, toast, and acidity followed by plums, spices, and floral.  The largest words for NZ Pinot Noir are cherry, light, and red fruit, followed by raspberries, acidity, and smoky.  The wines from these two regions have more similarities than differences from my reviews.  Cherries and red fruit, plus acidity and light mouthfeel/aroma are common to both at the same level of mention. On the other hand, tannins show as stronger in the BC Pinot Noir compared to NZ Pinot Noir.  Floral may also be stronger for BC Pinot Noir.  Sweet spices seem to be of similar intensity.

To Conclude

The comparison between Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc wines from British Columbia and New Zealand illuminates both the similarities and differences reflective of each region’s unique terroir. While New Zealand’s Marlborough region boasts a maritime climate ideal for producing vibrant and aromatic wines, British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley offers a diverse landscape influenced by the arid conditions of the Sonora Desert and the cooling effects of mountain winds for the Similkameen Valley. The distinct characteristics of each region shine through in the tasting notes, with BC wines exhibiting warmer, stone fruit aromas and flavours in Sauvignon Blanc, and robust cherry and red fruit in Pinot Noir, while New Zealand wines showcase cooler, green fruit notes with hints of jalapeno pepper in Sauvignon Blanc and delicate red fruit with a touch of smokiness in Pinot Noir. Despite these disparities, both regions consistently produce wines of exceptional quality, each expressing its unique sense of place and contributing to the rich tapestry of the global wine landscape. 

Buy a bottle of each and do a comparison yourself.  Enjoy!

Extra Info

Did you notice that all four bottles of wines were under screwcap?  The screwcap, aka Stelvin closure, although first invented in Australia, was championed in New Zealand in the 1990s.  This type of closure helps to keep wines tasting young and fresh for a longer time before being opened as well as not being affected by cork taint.  BC and NZ wines are known for being fresh, youthful wines, although some wines are under cork closure and meant for longer-term aging.

The wine reviews that I added for the word clouds.

Pinot Noir

  • Matua Pinot Noir 2014, Marlborough
  • Saint Clair Family Estate Pinot Noir 2014, Marlborough
  • Stoneleigh Latitude Pinot Noir 2014, Marlborough
  • Whitehaven Pinot Noir 2013, Marlborough
  • Township 7 Vineyards & Winery Benchmark Series Remuda Vineyard Pinot Noir 2022, BC
  • Da Silva Vineyards and Winery Vinhedo Pinot Noir 2021, BC
  • Meyer Family Vineyards McLean Creek Vineyard Micro Cuvée Pinot Noir 2022, BC
  • Meyer Family Vineyards McLean Creek Vineyard Old Block Pinot Noir 2022, BC

Sauvignon Blanc

  • Forrest Wines “The Doctors” Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough
  • Hunter’s Wines Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough
  • Marisco Vineyards, The Kings Favour Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough
  • Loveblock Vintners Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough
  • Stoneleigh Latitude Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough
  • Saint Clair Pioneer Block 18 Snap Block Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough
  • Township 7 Provenance Series Sauvignon Blanc 2022, BC
  • Mayhem Wines Sauvignon Blanc 2022, BC
  • Township 7 Vineyards & Winery Benchmark Series Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2021, BC
  • TIME Family of Wines Chronos Sauvignon Blanc 2020, BC
  • Winemaker’s CUT Sauvignon Blanc 2020, BC
Author: mywinepal
Drink Good Wine. That is my motto and I really want to help you drink good wine. What is good wine? That can be a different thing for each people. Food also loves wine so I also cover food and wine pairings, restaurant reviews, and world travel. Enjoy life with me. MyWinePal was started by Karl Kliparchuk, WSET. I spent many years with the South World Wine Society as the President and then cellar master. I love to travel around the world, visiting wine regions and sharing my passion for food & wine with you. Come live vicariously through me, and enjoy all my recommended wines.

Don't make me whine. Please leave a comment!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.