The home to Savvy – the hugely aromatic and popular white wines made from Sauvignon Blanc. Scrutiny could lead to you to think that New Zealand was only home to Sauvignon Blanc, which is almost true with Sauvignon Blanc as it makes between 60-70% of all wine produced there.
Recent years have given New Zealand dramatic vintage variations and many have realised that the over reliance on one grape varietal might not be the smartest move in the book. Thankfully many new grape varietals are being planted there and the wine industry is flourishing more than ever before.
Main Grapes or styles
Sauvignon Blanc – is outrageously aromatic in style with every green fruit you can imagine tied in with some passionfruit, green grass and cat’s piss. Most Sauvignon Blanc is produced in bulk for supermarkets the world over but there are an increasing amount of winemakers that are starting to make serious wines. Sauvignon Blanc finds its home in Marlborough for the most part but is being planted more in the Hawkes Bay and Central Otago.
Pinot Noir – the countries leading red wine grape varietal and making some of the best red wines that New Zealand has to offer. For such a small country it is fascinating to note three very distinct styles made from the regions of Martinborough, Marlborough and Central Otago, with Waipara offering a possible fourth. Generally speaking they are fruit-forward wines that are easy drinking made from short to mid term ageing, though the occasional producer is making wines akin to the Burgundy.
Chardonnay – is made in a few different styles across this small country. Warmer regions like the Hawkes Bay have traditionally made a tropical and peachy Chardonnay with a fair whack of oak, Marlborough has always been more biscuity and yeasty orientated with those from Auckland and Central Otago often being made in a more Burgundian-style.
Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot – after Pinot Noir are the most popular red wine grapes to grow. They are largely found across the Hawkes Bay with the best from the sub-region of Gimblett Gravels. Cabernet Sauvignon can only ripen in the warmest years with Merlot often taking up the majority of blends.
Syrah – is seeing a renaissance in New Zealand most likely thanks to global warming and a hunger for reds that are Pinot Noir. New Zealand’s warmest regions are well suited to Syrah and is found almost solely in Hawkes Bay.
Marlborough – the largest wine region for sure and the centre of Sauvignon Blanc production. In fact it is hard to say Marlborough without tagging Sauvignon Blanc behind it. It is increasingly showing diversity with some top-quality whites being made from Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Riesling. In recent years the warmest spots are also producing some fantastic Pinot Noirs – that were oft in the shadow of those from Central Otago.
Central Otago – ‘Pinot Pinot Pinot’ is how we see this region. It has carved a niche for itself by creating this countries leading examples of Pinot Noir that are capable of poise and restrained aromatics. The region is spread over a large area in the foothills of the Southern Alps. Most expect this region to be the coolest on record but yet the mountainous surrounds provide a focal point for sunshine and can often be the hottest region in summer for this reason. Once a region that solely relied on Pinot Noir is branching out into quality white wine production with the leading examples being produced from Chardonnay and Riesling.
Martinborough – to many Pinot Noir lovers this is the home of classy, age-worthy Pinot Noir made from top wineries such as Dry River and Ata Rangi. It is one of the smallest regions in the country but often is house to some of the highest quality wines New Zealand has to offer.
Hawkes Bay – the red wine and Chardonnay hub of New Zealand. It is found in the south of the North Island along the coast. Pacific Ocean breezes help to moderate the otherwise hot region. The best wines are juicy and soft red wines or big and fruity Chardonnays. Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are the most planted yet Syrah is increasing in importance each year.
Waipara – the region just north of Canterbury in the South Island. Though it is a small region, like Martinborough, it is home to some of New Zealand’s most precious exports. Long been home to great aromatic white wines namely Riesling and Gewurztraminer, Pinot Noir is making more of a dominance each year. The Pinot Noirs from Waipara are arguably closest to those of Burgundy.
Climate and its effect on the wines made here
The climate gets up to moderate temperatures at most, in comparison to Australia, which allows for steady ripeness of grapes throughout the growing season. The cooling Pacific Ocean breezes buoy the heat strikes of summer and spring. The North Island holds warmer temperatures than those in the South Island with the centre of viticulture found in the Hawkes Bay and Martinborough regions.