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The Best Sauvignon Blanc Wines Under $20

These regions and producers boast top-rated bottles on a budget

Janice Williams By June 24, 2022
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Illustration by Pix

There’s a reason wine lovers keep reaching for Sauvignon Blanc — it’s the perfect white to serve when the mood calls for something easy-drinking and refreshing. Those qualities have made Sauvignon Blanc one of the most popular white wine varieties on the planet.

In fact, it’s the grape driving white wine sales in the U.S. these days. According to Drizly data, sales of Sauvignon Blanc have soared 24% since 2020. So how did Sauvignon Blanc become such a hit with drinkers?

Key Sauvignon Blanc facts to learn

  • Why is Sauvignon Blanc one of the most popular wines in the world?
  • Where does Sauvignon Blanc come from?
  • What does Sauvignon Blanc taste like?
  • Best regions for Sauvignon Blanc

Why is Sauvignon Blanc one of the most popular wines in the world?

Sauvignon Blanc is a true crowd-pleaser. Not only is it an approachable dry white wine that shows a range of flavors, but drinkers love that it’s so easy to recognize. 

“Those classic green, grassy, herbaceous characters are just so distinctive. Drinkers like that they can identify a Sauvignon Blanc just from a whiff of the wine,” says Emma Marris, the production winemaker at Marisco Vineyards in Marlborough, New Zealand.

While Sauvignon Blanc is the perfect entry-level wine for new drinkers to explore, it can also show depth and complexity that appeals to connoisseurs. Best of all, it’s easy to find high-quality bottles for under $20. 

“Sauvignon Blanc is so versatile. It’s wonderfully drinkable on its own, but it’s equally at home with lighter salads, shellfish, and heartier fish, pasta, and poultry dishes,” says Pete Willcock, senior vice president of brand development at Taub Family Selections, which represents Invivo X in Marlborough, New Zealand.

Where does Sauvignon Blanc come from?

Sauvignon Blanc was first recorded in the Loire Valley of France, where it is still made as a single varietal wine today. The grape made its way to Bordeaux, where it’s often blended with other white wine varieties like Sémillon. From there, it spread to other parts of the world.

What does Sauvignon Blanc taste like?

In general, Sauvignon Blanc is a light-bodied, crisp white wine with high acidity. And it typically has moderate levels of alcohol.

The aromas of Sauvignon Blanc depend on where it comes from and how it’s made, though it generally offers pronounced fragrances of citrus, apple, stone, and tropical fruits. On the palate, flavors range from lemon and lime to white peach and tropical fruits like melon and mango. 

The most distinctive characteristic of Sauvignon Blanc is its herbaceous and vegetal green bell pepper notes. This is due to an aroma compound called methoxypyrazine — also known as pyrazines — which generates the green smells, like grass and fresh herbs, found in the wines. 

Best regions for Sauvignon Blanc

The best regions for growing Sauvignon Blanc typically have a cool-to-moderate climate. Vines planted in areas that are too warm ripen too quickly, impacting their natural acidity and preventing grapes from fully developing their recognizable fruit and herbaceous characters.

Best New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs Under $20

“From the start of its rise in popularity to its current status as one of the top categories in wine, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc delivers a unique balance of sophistication and approachability and a consistently strong quality-to-value ratio,” says Ian Downey, executive vice president at Winebow Imports, which represents several New Zealand wineries, including Allan Scott, Esk Valley, Nautilus Estate, Ponga, Twin Islands, Two Paddocks, and Villa Maria.

Marlborough, in the northwest of the South Island, has the warm days and cool nights that the Sauvignon Blanc grape loves. A long growing season helps Sauvignon Blanc achieve natural fruit ripeness and sugar development, says Marris of Marisco Vineyards, while retaining the bright, vibrant acidity of those cooler evenings. The result is a crisp Sauvignon Blanc that displays intense aromas and flavors of citrusy lemon and grapefruit and tropical nuances, as well as pronounced notes of fresh-cut grass and green bell pepper.

bottle of Spy Valley Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough

Spy Valley Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (~$17)

Produced by Spy Valley in Marlborough, this wine displays intense aromas and flavors of lime and tropical fruits with a backbone supported by fresh minerality. Juicy, mouthwatering acidity rounds out the crisp finish.

bottle of Allan Scott Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc

Allan Scott Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (~$17)

This Sauvignon Blanc made by Allan Scott in Marlborough features fresh and lively aromatics dominated by lemon, lime, and ruby red grapefruit that also show up on the palate. A wave of passionfruit arrives on the finish.

Best Loire Valley Sauvignon Blancs Under $20

Sauvignon Blanc from France’s Loire Valley are known for their elegance and freshness. The citrus notes are there, as are nuances of green apple, peach, and hints of green bell pepper. But what makes these wines stand out is the Loire’s classic minerality. 

Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé are among the most notable regions within the Loire Valley, areas where Sauvignon Blanc reigns supreme.

bottle of Jolie Folle Sauvignon Blanc

Jolie Folle Val de Loire IGP Sauvignon Blanc (~$16)

Crazy Beautiful Wines produces this light and fresh Sauvignon Blanc in the Loire Valley. Delicate aromas of ripe citrus fruits and peach are greeted with bright minerality on the palate. The wine wraps up with clean acidity.

bottle of Gaspard Touraine Sauvignon Blanc

Gaspard Touraine Sauvignon Blanc (~$18)

This wine hails from the Touraine appellation within the Loire Valley. The Sauvignon Blanc displays vibrant aromas of fresh-cut grass, lemon zest, and yellow apple. The palate is fruit-forward with tropical notes of melon and pineapple and plenty of acidity.

Best Chilean Sauvignon Blancs Under $20

Chile is the third biggest producer of Sauvignon Blanc. Bottles from the region lean fresh and zesty with high acidity and tropical fruit flavors. 

The country’s many microclimates and diverse soil types allow winemakers to create diverse styles and flavors of Sauvignon Blanc. Northern areas of Chile, like Atacama, Límari, and Maule Valleys are known for producing Sauvignon Blanc with more mineral richness, while in central places like Colchagua, Casablanca, and Leyda Valley, the wine tends to be more fruit-driven. 

bottle of Cono Sur Sauvignon Blanc Bicicleta

Cono Sur Bicicleta Colchagua Valley Sauvignon Blanc (~$13)

Now here’s a zesty Sauvignon Blanc with electric acidity from Chile’s Colchagua Valley. Displaying a greenish-yellowish hue, this wine features intense aromas of grapefruit and tart and crunchy green apple. The palate is peppered with herbaceous notes. The wine is fresh and balanced with fine minerality that arrives in the lively, lingering finish.

bottle of Concha y Toro Gran Reserva Serie Riberas Sauvignon Blanc 2021

Viña Concha y Toro Sauvignon Blanc Gran Reserva Serie Riberas (~$16)

This Sauvignon Blanc is made in Chile’s Rapel Valley. Minerality is the dominant player here, though herbal notes and soft green and yellow apple notes are present. The palate is fresh and intense with complex herbaceous qualities, complemented by citrus fruits. The lingering finish tingles with acidity.

Best Napa Valley Sauvignon Blancs Under $20

In California’s famous Napa Valley, Sauvignon Blanc offers plenty of lemon and lime aromas and flavors. Here, the green apple characteristics give way to tropical fruit notes. The signature fresh-cut grass character is there, too.

Sauvignon Blancs from the Napa Valley are mostly unoaked. However, a famous Napa style is the Fumé Blanc, a style launched by Robert Mondavi in the late 1960s. It’s a style of Sauvignon Blanc that is aged in oak barrels to impart richer, round, spice nuances and melon flavors. 

bottle of Beringer Founder's Estate Sauvignon Blanc

Beringer Founder's Estate Sauvignon Blanc (~$10)

This wine is intense with ripe stone fruit and citrus aromas and flavors that are complemented by fig nuances. A grassy note arrives on the backend with crispy acidity that extends through the finish.

bottle of Dancing Crow Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc Lake County

Dancing Crow Vineyards Lake County Sauvignon Blanc (~$17)

Just north of Napa Valley lies Lake County, the California region where this cheery and bright Sauvignon Blanc is made. Intense with lemon, lime, and grapefruit aromas and flavors, the wine’s citrusy profile is balanced with notes of honeydew melon, rosemary, and thyme. Zippy acidity keeps it fresh and long in the finish.

Best Italian Sauvignon Blancs Under $20

Turn your eyes to Italy for fresh and delicate examples of Sauvignon Blanc that are more fruit-forward than green in style, but which still maintain that crisp, fresh edge with the variety’s hallmark acidity.

Sauvignon Blanc from the Alto Adige region, near the Alps at the top of Italy, is made in a range of styles, from zesty and easy-drinking to voluminous and full-bodied. Meanwhile, in northeastern Friuli, Sauvignon Blanc displays concentrated fruit aromas and flavors, along with clean minerality. 

bottle of Armani Sauvignon Blanc Friuli

Armani Friuli Sauvignon Blanc (~$16)

This fresh and tasty Sauvignon Blanc hails from Friuli. It displays delicate aromas of citrus fruit, but the palate is packed with pungent green pepper qualities. The finish features hints of grapefruit.

bottle of Abbazia di Novacella (Stiftskellerei Neustift) Sauvignon Blanc

Abbazia di Novacella Stiftskellerei Neustift Alto Adige Sauvignon Blanc (~$19)

This Sauvignon Blanc produced by Abbazia di Novacella in Alto Adige, within the Italian Dolomites, offers aromas of citrus, peach and melon. The wine is balanced with fruity aromas and flavors, minerality, and bright acidity.

Best Sauvignon Blancs from South Africa Under $20

Sauvignon Blanc thrives in the region of Stellenbosch, as well as near the cooler coastal areas and higher elevation points. It does so well that Sauvignon Blanc production in South Africa has been on the increase — it’s now the third most-planted white grape in the country, following Chenin Blanc and Colombard. 

South African Sauvignon Blanc displays signature vibrant acidity and fresh herbaceous qualities. The intensity of fruit can vary depending on where and how the wine is made.

bottle of Indaba Sauvignon Blanc Western Cape

Indaba Cape South Coast Sauvignon Blanc (~$11)

This easy-drinking wine is made in the Western Cape. It displays enticing citrus aromas that show up with great intensity on the palate. Pineapple and mango nuances arrive mid-palate while the finish sparkles with racy acidity.

bottle of Walker Bay Vineyards Southern Right Sauvignon Blanc

Walker Bay Vineyards Southern Right Sauvignon Blanc (~$17)

Made in South Africa’s Walker Bay region, this Sauvignon Blanc offers intense aromas of ripe citrus fruit, melon, and lemongrass. Sauvignon’s hallmark herbaceous character is noticeable on the palate while bright acidity keeps the light-bodied wine fresh and lively through the finish.