Southern Hemisphere

New Zealand

  • New Zealand is a tiny nation, producing very small quantities of delicious, fruit driven wines of great balance. New Zealand’s wine industry began around the turn of the 19th century, at roughly the same time as that of Australia, but it has only been comparatively recently that exports from New Zealand have begun to penetrate export markets worldwide.

    The broader success of New Zealand as a wine-producing nation happened largely in the wake of the meteoric success of Cloudy Bay, the Marlborough winery founded by David Hohnen in 1985. Now the New Zealand Sauvignon that he help popularize is ubiquitous, and the number of wineries in New Zealand has increased dramatically, from 130 to 400 in the last ten years, and production has doubled in the last five years alone.

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  • The climate in New Zealand is dominated by bright sunshine and cool ocean breezes that help the vines retain balance. Soils tend to be very rich so strict canopy management techniques are used to limit the vigor of the vines, which can lead to overly thick canopies that can shade the fruit and impede ripening.

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  • Sauvignon Blanc is the most important varietal in New Zealand, responsible for nearly a third of production. Two factors have enormous influence on the flavor of New Zealand Sauvignon. One is the cool climate, and the other is the fact that for quite some time there was essentially just one clone of Sauvignon that showed the aggressive asparagus nose for which this wine is famous. This is because strict quarantine laws are in place that prohibited the easy importation of foreign plant material.

    Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are also popular. Pinot Noir has become The Next Big Thing from New Zealand. The climate is conducive to the production of high quality, restrained and elegant Pinots, and the market is ready for them. All of this activity represents quite a change from the days when Muller Thurgau dominated the New Zealand wine industry.

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  • Marlborough
    Marlborough, on the South Island, is the most important wine growing region in New Zealand, accounting for over half (54%) of all production. The area is dominated by the valley of the Wairau river valley, and the climate is very cool but sunny. The river deposited deep gravel beds, which provide an ideal soil structure for the production of fine wine. Grapes also benefit from a long hang time due to dry autumns.

    Nelson, Cantebury and Otago
    The Nelson region west of Marlborough has more clay-based soils that lack the drainage of the best Marlborough sites, although the area can be fairly successful. East of the mountains along the island’s northern spine lies the Cantebury region, which is fairly fertile. At the southern tip of the South Island is Otago, a region that has gained a fantastic reputation for its Pinot Noir production.

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  • Hawkes Bay, Wairarapa and others
    The North Island also has many grape growing regions. Two regions for quality grapes are Hawkes Bay and Wairarapa at the southern tip of the island which includes the city of Martinborough.

    Other regions on the North Island include Northland, which is one of the smallest; Auckland, where the soils are more clay based, and Waikato/Bay of Plenty, where more fertile soils produce more vigorous vines. This is also true in Gisbourne, an area of volume production.

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