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Enlarge New Zealand mapIntroduction to New Zealand

Although New Zealand has recently become a major player in the world of wine, it is definitely one that is correctly termed “New World” – it only planted its first quality vines in 1973! It is also tiny in terms of the number of vines grown and volume of production.

Comprising two islands, New Zealand is a hot country which benefits from sea breezes. Its biggest problem is too much rain: therefore, most of the vineyards are found on the eastern side of the islands which is protected by mountains.

The 3 most popular grapes are:

  • Sauvignon Blanc: this white grape can happily stake its claim to making New Zealand famous. Some world-class examples are found in Marlborough.
  • Chardonnay: most planted grape in New Zealand with the whole spectrum of styles.
  • Pinot Noir: some world-class examples are found in Martinborough, Marlborough and Central Otago.

Other grapes grown include Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Syrah.

North Island

  • Auckland: this is the hottest region and known mainly for Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay, along with Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc. Noteworthy regions are Henderson, Kumeu, Huapai, and Clevedon.
  • Gisborne: the world's most easterly vineyards are here, romantically making them the first vines to see the sun each day. It is especially famous for Chardonnay, but grows other white grape varieties (with only 10% being red grapes).
  • Hawkes Bay: famous for Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir. A particularly noteworthy region is Gimblett Road.
  • Martinborough (within Wellington, Wairarapa region): famous for rich, full-bodied Pinot Noir and subtle Sauvignon Blancs.


South Island

  • Marlborough: this is the sunniest part of New Zealand, with the best vineyards coming from Wairau Valley. This is best known for its Sauvignon Blancs, which some say are the best in the world. They are certainly beautiful wines that show true, natural versions of the grape. Also grows good Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (grown mainly for sparkling wines).
  • Nelson: is unusually located on the west coast of New Zealand. Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Pinot Noir make up over 80% of the region's vines.
  • Canterbury: this sunny, dry region has cool growing conditions. It is best known for the sub-regions of Christchurch and Waipara. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are the most planted grapes, along with Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc.
  • Central Otago: the world’s most southerly wine region. Some vineyards are grown at altitude, which delivers warm days and cold nights. These conditions help concentrate flavours to create some great wines. Pinot Noir is the key grape grown here, with Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling also being popular.

For more information on New Zealand, go to nzwine.com