New Zealand wines have become sought after in a really short period of time since the country started wine production. The first commercial vineyard was established in 1973 in the Marlborough area of New Zealand, which is also New Zealand’s first Sauvignon Blanc growing region too. From this rather late entry into commercial wine production New Zealand has now become a player, especially with its Sauvignon Blanc which has become a really special and applauded wine.
New Zealand as a country has a unique climate which makes for the potential to create unique wines. The New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc has in fact become a benchmark for this particular type of wine for the rest of the world. One of the reasons for the success of this wine is the climate of New Zealand. Although predominantly a maritime climate, the weather in New Zealand displays more variation in its nature than that of Northern Europe. Cold snaps are possible at any time of the year and warm periods are possible even in the depth of winter. The wine regions of New Zealand tent to experience cold nights even in the height of summer which tends to produce fruits that are high in acidity.
New Zealand has 10 wine growing regions. The diversification of the climate means that harvesting dates vary across the country with some grapes harvested in February whilst others may not be picked until late April.
New Zealand concentrates on several main types of wine. Due to the size of the country they don’t have the potential to diversify in the same way as larger countries. On the reds they tend to stick to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinto Noir, whilst with white wines they concentrate on Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. But even with this limited range of grapes to choose from New Zealand has produced some really classy wines.
Pinot Noir is a difficult grape to cultivate but produces some really fine wines. The plant likes cool temperatures and low rainfall and is therefore best placed in the Wellington and South Island regions of New Zealand. Some of the wines using this grape are produced by Stonewall, Esk Valley and Hunters
Sauvignon Blanc is the other great New Zealand wine. By the 1990’s New Zealand had infact become one of the foremost producers of wines made from this grape. It is produced in two main regions and therefore has two main styles. The Northern styles tend to be richer with a melon like flavour whilst those produced in the south are lighter and more peppery in taste. Some of the favourites are Cloudy Bay (the definitive Sauvignon Blanc), Stonewall, Esk Valley and Brightwater.
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Fiona Muller is a qualified journalist and has worked in food and drink writing for the last few years. For a great selection of New Zealand wines, including information on fine wines and tips for tastings, go to www.laithwaites.co.uk
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