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New Zealand has emerged as one of the world’s most notable wine making countries. Often over-shadowed by its Australian neighbor, New Zealand wineries have made significant progress in perfecting some of the world’s best known grape varieties.
New Zealand Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Noir are now considered by many to be specialties in the wine community’s ‘New World’. They also produce a host of other varieties, all of which are certainly worth a taste.
The wine-making regions of New Zealand literally stretch the entire length of the country, from Northland to Otago.
Physically New Zealand is a land of contrasts, so it comes as no surprise that the wine regions vary significantly from one another.
In fact, within these diverse regions, sub-regional characteristics are beginning to show through and wines are starting to be distinguished as being not just from a wine region, but from a sub-region and a place.
Marlborough is New Zealand’s largest wine region, and is located in the northern part of the South Island.
Varietals produced include Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Riesling, and more. Sauvignon Blanc, described as “the explosive varietal that awoke the world to New Zealand wine”, is produced most predominantly in Marlborough, where 80% of all New Zealand plantings exist.
Chardonnay is grown in almost every region, but is most notable in Gisborne, which has proclaimed itself as the Chardonnay capital of New Zealand.
For the lovers of red wine, look no further than Hawkes Bay – New Zealand’s oldest wine region, located on the south-east coast of the North Island. Cabernet Merlot and Syrah are greatly produced here, along with other full-bodied reds & Chardonnay.
Smaller, but no less impressive, wine regions include:
Central Otago – Located at the southern part of the South Island; the world’s most southerly wine region. Best known for Pinot Noir with herbal notes, berry fruit and firm tannins.
Auckland (including Waiheke Island) – New Zealand’s metropolitan area is also home to a small, yet robust, wine region. Waiheke Island, a short ferry ride from Auckland, is without a doubt the jewel of this region. The warm, dry summer climate helps produce high quality Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, & Syrah.
Wairarapa – Located at the southern tip of the North Island, north-east of Wellington. This region excels in Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc. Production is small, whilst quality abounds.
Nelson – Located at the top of the South Island, north-west from Marlborough. This is a tiny wine community made up of 25 family run wineries. Nelson wineries consistently win awards for their aromatic varieties - Riesling, Gewürztraminer, & Pinot Gris – while earning well-deserved reputations for quality Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc.