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New Zealand’s Wine Regions and Varietals

The commitment and collaboration of wine growers and makers towards sustainability standards shows just how serious the NZ wine industry is in protecting the long term health of the their unique and pristine environment, communities and businesses. Let’s not forget about the outcome of this commitment – delicious wine that represents their origin – and take a look at New Zealand’s Wine Regions and Varietals.

Both the north and south islands produce wine from subtropical Northland (36° S) to Central Otago (46° S), home to the world’s most southerly vineyards. The wine regions are mainly situated on the east coast of the country. The North Island regions include: Auckland, Gisborne, Hawke’s Bay and Wairarapa. The South Island regions include: Marlborough, Nelson, Canterbury and Central Otago.

The cooler South Island produces the most wine. The major region for wine production is the Marlborough producing Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Riesling and Pinot Noir. The warmer North island favours red production of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.

The varietal that put New Zealand on the world wine map is of course Sauvignon Blanc which represents a massive 73% of domestic production and 86% of New Zealand exports.  Climate is the reason this grape variety does so well with longer, cooler growing conditions that promote stronger, more vibrant fruit flavours and higher acidity levels. The resulting wine is more pungent, crisper, and known for its gooseberry characters, lush passionfruit and tropical fruit overtones. Other notes include capsicum, fresh cut grass, tomato stalks, grapefruit and lime.

There’s more to New Zealand then Sauvignon Blanc, the other key varietals that make up the remaining 27% of production include:

Chardonnay – 7% of production and grown in every region. Marlborough has the largest production, the cooler region producing a medium to light bodied chardonnay with greater acidity and minerality and fresh, citrus and savoury flavours.

Pinot Gris – 6% of production, grown in every region and called Pinot Gris not Pinot Grigio. This is because it is more akin to Alsace in style than the drier Pinot Grigio. The style of Pinot Gris is fresh and full-flavoured, with notes of apple, pear, honeysuckle, spice and bread.

Pinot Noir – 8% of production, is predominantly grown in the cooler southerly regions: the Wairarapa, Marlborough, Nelson, Canterbury & Waipara, and Central Otago. New Zealand produces a wide range of styles common to all is structure and elegance overlaid by power and fruit-driven intensity.

Foreign Legion – Six of New Zealand’s Best Wines

With their impressive sustainability standards, united wine industry and excellent wines choosing New Zealand, our neighbours ‘over the ditch’, for our first Foreign Legion ‘Best of the Internationals’ pack was easy. Deciding on which varietals from which regions was harder – there are so many great wines to choose from. Recently I’ve meet the winemakers from Churton, Scout and Greystone who generously gave their time, knowledge and passion to taste and discuss their wines, growing and winemaking practices, so I’ve chosen wine from each of them and three more wines from wonderful, passionate winemakers.

Foreign Legion six pack
Foreign Legion six pack

Buy the The Pack here >

Meltwater Sauvignon Blanc, MarlboroughMade by Corofin, sustainably grown, crisp and crunchy wine with none of the stereotypical characters that are associated with this wine style. Aromatics suggest fresh basil and mandarin while the palate is racy and energetic with again mandarin peel, ripe apple and a backbone of crisp acidity. An excellent example. A must try!

Greystone Pinot Gris, North Canterbury. Winemaker Dom Maxwell is Gourmet Traveller, New Zealand Winemaker of the Year 2018. Dry, textural with flavours of apple, crisp pear and toasty brioche. Stunning wine.

Seresin Pinot Gris, Marlborough. Owned by renowned cinematographer Michael Seresin – Midnight Express, Gravity, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Harry Potter: Prisoner of Azkaban, to name a few – the wine is also fabulous! Bio-Gro Organic and Demeter Certified. Textural mouth feel, stone fruits and dry. Brioche notes from five months in oak. This is a rich and ripe Pinot Gris.

Churton Natural State Pinot Noir, Marlborough. Small family winery, Certified Organic and Biodynamic with BioGro. Aromatic with lush florals and bright red fruits. Well-structured on the palate with great length and natural acidity. Enjoy slightly chilled. 

Scout Pinot X Pinot, South Island. Relative newcomers, challenging ideas and practices, but also observing how wines are crafted and perfected. A blend of Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. Despite its finesse, it still has quite a fresh punch to it, no doubt this is coming from the Pinot Gris blended into it. It has such beautiful berry notes with Strawberry being the most dominating. The colour is just stunning, its a mix between red and pink, very inviting.

Thistle Hill Pinot Noir, North Canterbury. Made by Greystone, New Zealand Organic Wine Awards 2016 Organic Vineyard of the Year. Dark red cherry colour, black plums and Christmas pudding spice aroma. Lots of ripe juicy cherry and plums with firm yet subtle oak tannins. Full of flavour and style. Gluggable style, perfect for casual dining.

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