Rhyolites generated in the modern Taupo Volcanic Zone (TVZ), New Zealand, have previously been interpreted as having evolved by a combination of extensive fractional crystallization of mantle-derived mafic magmas and limited crustal assimilation (up to 25%). Polytopic vector analysis (PVA), a form of multivariate statistical analysis, of the major-element compositions of over 475 basaltic to rhyolitic bulk-rock samples, representing over 600 kyr of volcanism within the TVZ, has provided a robust platform for rhyolite characterization and new insights into rhyolite petrogenesis. There is a continuum of compositions between two rhyolite end-member magma types (EM1 and EM2), which have been identified on the basis of the PVA and which have distinct petrological and geochemical characteristics, as follows. EM1: crystal-rich (up to 45%), hydrous phases (± hornblende ± biotite ± cummingtonite), high Aluminum Saturation Index [ASI; molar Al2O3/(CaO + Na2O + K2O)], low FeO*/MgO (calc-alkaline series), depleted abundances of middle rare earth elements (MREE) and Y, and high Sr; EM2: crystal-poor (<10%), anhydrous phases (orthopyroxene ± clinopyroxene), high FeO*/MgO (tholeiitic series), low ASI, less depleted MREE and Y, and low Sr. The range of ASI values, and relative depletion in MREE and Y in the rhyolites is consistent with the results of experiments to constrain the partial melting behaviour of amphibolite at crustal pressures. The major- and trace-element data are also consistent with 50–60% equilibrium crystallization of a crustally contaminated, hornblende-bearing andesite to produce the TVZ rhyolites. Distinct major- and trace-element variations along the continuum between the two rhyolite end-member types can be effectively modelled by simulating changes in the temperature–fO2–fH2O conditions in the lower crust where mantle-derived mafic magmas are stored and differentiate. Low T and high fO2 and fH2O in the crustal magma storage zone promote abundant hornblende crystallization and suppress plagioclase crystallization, which produces the EM1 type rhyolite. By increasing the temperature and/or lowering fO2 and fH2O in the magma storage region, plagioclase becomes more dominant and hornblende crystallization is suppressed, producing more EM2-like rhyolitic magma types.