New Zealand is natural wine country which is just another fantastic reason to join one of the excellent tours of New Zealand. Many of the wines being produced are undoubtedly world class, with the combination of climate and geography helping to produce highly distinctive, premium wines with intensity, purity and vibrancy. It goes without saying, that a New Zealand dining experience wouldn’t be complete without a glass or two of one of these award-winning wines.
With eleven main wine regions expanding across the country, and new styles continuously emerging, it’s no wonder wine is growing to be one of the country’s top exports. The regions offer such diversity, sub-regional characteristics are beginning to show and wines are being distinguished more and more at a micro-level.
Starting at the top of the North Island is Northland Wine Region. With its higher average temperatures and more humid climate conditions it means that harvesting can occur in late February or early March – a whole six weeks earlier than the Southern Island regions. The vineyards are planted mainly on flats or slight slopes making for some perfectly good Chardonnays.
Auckland is enriched with four wine regions where the soils are mainly made from shallow clay beds. Here you will find wineries producing fine Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay. More recently the premium wine district of Clevedon, has established small pockets of vines about half an hour south of the city. Its boutique wine being a Bordeaux-blend red. The vineyards here are small but have established a big reputation for quality.
Traveling slightly further south is the Gisborne Wine Region. Having the world’s most easterly vineyards, they are the first to see the sun each day. The vast majority of grape here is made up of white varieties with reds making up just 10%. The oceans cooling effects mean that the flavours do not get too tropical, white peach and aged cheese flavours are much more common.
Hawkes Bay is the second largest wine region in New Zealand, with a 100 year heritage behind them. The region boasts a wide range of wine styles which is largely down to the region’s varying soil types. Chardonnay is the most widely planted grape, but with enviably long sunshine hours, later ripening red grape varieties include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah.
At the top of the South Island are Nelson and Marlborough wine regions. Marlborough of course being the largest and arguably the country’s most iconic wine brand. The crisp Sauvignon Blanc continues to thrive, but Marlborough has also earned a reputation for producing some excellent sparkling wines too.
As we work our way down the South Island, most southerly of them all is the Otago Wine Region. With its remarkable landscape of snow-capped mountains and glittering rivers, visitors are drawn from near and far. This is the most southerly wine region in the world! The vineyards benefit from long sunshine hours and nights cooled by the sea breeze, helping to produce world class Pinot Noirs.
New Zealand is a country of contrast, and as such, grapes are grown in a vast range of climates and soil types meaning wines are produced in a wide range of styles. Vineyards across New Zealand have a reputation for innovation, high quality produce and caring for the environment. There is plenty to excite the nose and the palate here but also the rest of the senses too. For more details on all of New Zealand’s wine regions and wineries, please visit the official New Zealand wine website here.