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New Zealand’s wines seem to have captured the imagination of enthusiasts everywhere. Regardless of where you go, people seem to lavishly praise the wines of this small, isolated country. Only 30 years ago few people knew New Zealand as a wine producer. Today wine enthusiasts go to great lengths to acquire a bottle or even a case of fine New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Noir. Even the famed Champagne house Deutz acquired land, and produces traditional sparkling wines.
If you take a mirror image of a map of New Zealand and turn it upside down, the country resembles the “ boot “ of Italy. New Zealand’s two largest islands are separated by a narrow strait near the “ ankle “. As in
Italy, the foot is warmer than the top; this being the southern hemisphere –
farther from the equator. Although grapes grow throughout the country, the better quality fruit originates in regions with moderate Mediterranean-type climates.
New Zealand made a name for itself with Sauvignon Blanc, but there are many other white grapes – Riesling, Muller-Thurgau, Chardonnay, Semillon, Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris – planted.
For red wines, growers gravitate towards Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir and even Syrah.
Clearly, cool climate grapes thrive and yield excellent wines.
Unlike Australia, New Zealand wines have an excellent acid backbone, gentle fruit, fine aromas and a succulence few other wines can match
New Zealand wines seem to be better suited to food than drinking on their own, although a glass of fine Sauvignon Blanc prior to a meal can do wonders for your appetite.
A string of mountains runs along the north-south backbone of the country, creating pockets of intriguing microclimates each of which favours distinct and different varieties.
AUCKLAND: several of the oldest wineries started in this warm area around the commercial and financial center of the country’s biggest city.
Waiheke Island and Kumeu are two regions with excellent reputation for quality. Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot thrive well.
GISBORNE: the region is best known for its Chardonnay and fragrant Gewurztraminer grown on north-facing vineyards.
HAWKES BAY: on the cooler part of the north island, the region’s gravelly soils produce the best Merlots, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.
MARTINBOROUGH; protected by a range of hills from warm northern breezes, the deep, loamy soils yield excellent Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc.
MARLBOROUGH: tucked in the northeastern corner of the south island it is justly famous for its Sauvignon Blanc, but this is not the only grape that does well. Riesling, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grow very well and yield fine wines.
WAIPARA; just north of Christchurch, the capital, fine Pinot Noir are produced; they can compete with th3e best in Burgundy. Funny enough, some New Zealand vignerons opened a store in the heart of Burgundy’s Beaune to compete with local wines.
CANTERBURY; a vast plain surrounding Christchurch and which extends to southern Alps is better known for its Riesling and Pinot Noir due to its cool climate.
CENTRAL OTAGO; located neat Queenstown, this is the coolest grape growing region of New Zealand. The wines reflect the climate with their bracing acidity and bright flavours. Much of the fruit for sparkling wines originate here.
New Zealand’s best overseas market is the U K, but the U S A, Canada, and Scandinavian countries are gradually discovering the elegance of New Zealand’s wines. Approximately 80 percent of the production comes from two wineries – Montana and Corban’s. Chances are Montana will become the only big winery. However, the small wineries compete favourably with quality and prices that make up for their small production.
The following wineries enjoy a fine reputation: Babich, Cooper’s Creek, Delegat’s, Esk Valey Estates, Fairhill Downs, Forrest Estate Winery, Goldwater Estate, Kim Crawford Wines (now owned by Vincor an Canadain Wine conglomerate and the 4th largest winery organization in North America), Kumeu River Wines, Lincoln Vineyards, Palliser Estate Wines, St Clair Estate Wines, Seifried Estate, Thainstone Vineyard, Vidal Estate, Villa Maria Estate and Voss Estate Vineyards.
Article contributed by Hrayr Berberoglu, a Professor Emeritus of Hospitality and Tourism Management specializing in Food and Beverage. Books by H. Berberoglu
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