Essentials Series: New Zealand
New Zealand is sort of the dark horse in the world of wine production. Although the country produces less than 1% of the world’s wine, those bottles are unique and valuable. It’s kind of like that kid you knew in high school who was really quiet all the time but the words he did say were absolutely hilarious and worthwhile.
New Zealand is home to a wide range of varietals, especially those that grow in a temperate, maritime climate. Because of the fact that New Zealand is actually an island, no vineyard is more than 80 miles from the ocean, which means there’s plenty of sunshine and lovely breezes.
Marlborough is the largest wine-producing region in all of New Zealand with over 20,000 hectares of vines, which is two-thirds of the nation’s total. It sits right at the northernmost tip of the island so it has a magical combination of year-round sunshine with low rainfall and free-draining, fertile soils.
Auckland is also a big region for wine in New Zealand as it’s the oldest, and houses some of the country’s biggest wine companies. There are many sub-regions within Auckland but they all boast the volcanic soils and moderate climate. Merlot does exceedingly well here so red blends are very popular, as is Pinot Gris.
Although there are many different grapes grown throughout the country, the most popular are Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah- just to name a few.
The Sauvignon Blanc is a notable wine for New Zealand because it was actually the first wine to put the country on the map as a wine producer. Although production started back in the 1850s, it wasn’t until the 1970s that the Sauvignon Blanc became a hit. In the 90s, the NZ Sauvignon Blanc was actually named “arguably the best in the world” by British wine critic, Oz Clarke.
The flavors of a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc are different than anywhere else in the world. It pops with flavors of bell pepper, gooseberry, tropical fruits, and even freshly cut grass, which is why it accounts for over 80% of the country’s total wine exportation.
Pinot Noir is the second most exported wine in New Zealand at 6%, and it’s also one of the most diverse wines across the country. The cooler, Southern regions provide a wide range of climates, which produces unique and interesting Pinot Noirs. All of them are powerful and fruit-forward but each region presents its own character, like in Wairapa which boasts a darker, sweeter flavor, while Marlborough Pinots are brighter and slightly acidic.
New Zealand may be a small country but it has plenty to offer in the way of wine. Next time you’re in the mood for a vino adventure, pick up something from New Zealand!