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#COUNTRY SPOTLIGHT – NEW ZEALAND VARIETALS

The New Zealand wine industry leads the way with their sustainable wine practices and standards. The industry is strongly committed to reducing their environmental impact. There are over 500 wine producers with 10% holding organic or biodynamic certification, and 98% are Sustainable Winegrowing NZ (SWNZ) accredited.


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 variety that put New Zealand on the world wine map is Sauvignon Blanc which represents 73% of domestic production and 86% of New Zealand wine 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.

The other key varietals 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, is grown in every region. The preferred name is Pinot Gris, not Pinot Grigio. This is because it is more akin to Alsace in style than the drier/leaner Pinot Grigio. The style of NZ Pinot Gris is full-flavoured and rich, 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 with the best examples showing structure and elegance and fruit-driven intensity.

(Ref, New Zealand Wine image @churtonwines)