Wine making and vine growing go back to colonial times in New Zealand, but it was not until the end of the 1960s which saw the end of the New Zealand institution of the "six o'clock swill", where pubs were open for only an hour after the end of the working day and closed all Sunday, that the industry started to forge forward. The same legislative reform saw the introduction of bring your own licences for restaurants. This too had a profound and unexpected effect on New Zealanders' cultural approach to wine.

The first production of a Sauvignon Blanc of great note appears to have occurred in 1977. Also produced in that year were superior quality wines of Muller Thurgau, Riesling and Pinotage. New Zealand is home to what many wine critics consider the world’s best Sauvignon Blanc. Oz Clarke, the wine critic wrote in the 1990s that New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc was "arguably the best in the world". Historically, Sauvignon Blanc has been used in many French regions in both AOC and Vin de Pays wine. The most famous had been France’s Sancerre, it is also the grape used to make Pouilly Fumé.

In the 1980s, wineries in New Zealand, especially in the Marlborough region, began producing outstanding, some critics said unforgettable, Sauvignon Blanc.

"New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is like a child who inherits the best of both parents - exotic aromas found in certain Sauvignon Blancs from the New World and the pungency and limey acidity of an Old World Sauvignon Blanc like Sancerre from the Loire Valley"

Mark Oldman.

One critic said that drinking one's first New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc was like having sex for the first time! No other region in the world can match Marlborough, the north eastern corner of New Zealand's South Island, which seems to be the best place in the world to grow Sauvignon Blanc grapes. New Zealand Reds are typically made from either a blend of varietals (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and much less often Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec), or Pinot Noir. Recently, in Hawkes Bay there have been wines made from Syrah, either solely or blends, and even Tempranillo, Montepulciano and Sangiovese. Excellent quality Methode Traditionelle sparkling wine is produced in New Zealand. Typically, it was Marlborough that was the commercial birth place of New Zealand Methode Traditionelle sparkling wine. Marlborough still produces a number of high quality sparkling wines, and has attracted both investment from Champagne producers and also champanois wine-makers. Sparkling wines from Marlborough include Pelorous  (from Cloudy Bay), and Montana Lindauer.