There is much affection for New Zealand wine in the UK. Whilst the grape has been grown there for many years it was of no real significance until the 1970’s when the UK entered the EEC, and everything changed; farmers were forced to look again at their agriculture and serious vine growing became at least one option. Happily, this coincided more or less with the time when the huge advances that were being made in wine technology had begun to revolutionise wine making in the southern hemisphere.
New Zealand’s grape varieties
New Zealand is a long thin country, with a good range of soils and micro climates in both North and South Islands and the grape varieties grown are reassuringly familiar. In North Island, Hawkes Bay is best known for Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot which, when combined, are known as ‘Bordeaux Blends’, with the sub region of Gimblett Gravels having a world reputation for rich, long lasting reds. Gisborne, the country’s most easterly wine producing area, has built a reputation for fine aromatics such as Gewürztraminer and also for Chardonnay; further south, not far from the capital, Wellington, pungent and delicate Pinot Noir can be found in Waipara and Martinborough. The cooler climate in Central Otago, way down in South Island also suits Pinot Noir well. Sauvignon Blanc made in Marlborough, which lies in the north of South Island, is amongst the finest in the world and no region has done more to promote the image of New Zealand wines as a whole. Nelson, too, has some fine examples as does Waipara, a smaller area just north of Canterbury. New Zealand wine production may still be small (one tenth of that of Australia) but their imprint on the wine world is remarkable.
New Zealand’s wine regions
New Zealand’s most famous wine region which lies to the north east at the top of South Island. The soil here is varied, with the best vineyards being planted on the stony, gravelly terrain, much favoured due to its good drainage. The climate is Mediterranean, with hot days being followed by cool nights, helped by the regions proximity to the sea. Without irrigation, the area would not have got off the ground as far a vine growing is concerned, as rainfall is sparse. Sauvignon Blanc is the most important grape variety by far and has not only established Marlborough as a top wine producing area in its own country but has flown the flag for New Zealand wines as a whole. Other white varieties do well, too, Chardonnay being the next in line followed by Riesling. More Pinot Noir is being planted and this could be another success story for the region.
A developing wine area just north of Canterbury, in South Island, New Zealand. The valley has three districts, the valley floor, the hillsides and the river banks, each with its own ‘terroir’. Autumns are hot but the nights are cool and this southerly district has good conditions for growing Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris, and also Pinot Noir.
New Zealand’s most southerly wine area which is relatively new, but growing fast. Shielded by mountains, it has a continental climate with good diurnal temperature variation. These are ideal conditions for Pinot Noir, which accounts for most of the planting. Other varieties are beginning to be cultivated, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer amongst them. The region is broken up into several sub regions, each having its own micro climate with many being subject to severe frosts. Picking starts in mid to late April, later than the warmer regions further north.
Lies along the Pacific coast in the north east of North Island, New Zealand, just above better known Hawkes Bay. The region is also known as Poverty Bay has a maritime climate, where the sea breezes help to preserve acidity. Gisborne has built a reputation for fine Chardonnay and ‘aromatics’ such as Gewürztraminer, Müller-Thurgau, Pinot Gris and Viognier. Generally considered a white wine area, but some good reds are produced from Merlot and Malbec. Often referred to as the ‘fruit bowl’ of New Zealand.