No other wine nation has seen such rapid development in the past 20 years as the New Zealand wine country. In 1960, only 400 hectares were planted with vines in New Zealand; today the area under vines is an impressive 40,000 hectares. The quality of Sauvignon Blancs and Pinot Noirs is recognized all over the world.
The basis for this spectacular upswing is the climate, characterized by high sun intensity and cool nights at the same time, which enables the cultivation of aroma-intensive wines. At least the cool climate with warm summers and mild winters applies to the South Island, on which viniculture has concentrated in recent years.75% of the vines planted in New Zealand wine country are white grape varieties. The trademark of the New Zealand wine scene is the Sauvignon Blanc.
Glance at the History of Viticulture
The first vines in New Zealand wine country appeared in 1819 when British missionaries and settlers had brought the grapes from Australia. The British governor bottled New Zealand’s first wine in 1835 and is therefore considered the founder of New Zealand viticulture. However, the major upswing did not come until 1970. Thus, the state promoted viticulture from the 1970s onwards to provide the winegrowers with an economic basis. The vine area has increased significantly over the past 30 years.
New Zealand’s Wine Regions
New Zealand’s wine regions are spread from subtropical North down to Central Otago, which is the home to southernmost vineyards in the world. The majority of the vineyards are situated on the eastern coast of the North and South Islands. New Zealand’s wine regions are further divided into sub-regions and smaller zones. The terroirs of the different wine regions or wine-producing areas are expressed in distinctive wines.
Thanks to the Sauvignon boom, Marlborough has developed into one of leading New Zealand’s wine regions, with 25,000 hectares, more than 60 percent of vineyards are located here. In second place is Hawke’s Bay with around 4,000 hectares, where mainly red wine (Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah) matures. Martinborough and Central Otago are considered strongholds of the Pinot Noir.
Wine Tourism in New Zealand
New Zealand’s wine regions are visited by hundreds of thousands international travelers every year. The popularity of the country as a wine destination is increasing every year thanks to the enthusiasm and invoations of local winemakers from different regions of the country. You can visit boutique wineries across the country, where you will be able to savor some of the best local products paired with amazing wines.
The South Island
The South Island of New Zealand wine country, which in addition to its breath-taking beauty provides everything that nature has to offer, also has excellent wines. So, most of New Zealand’s vineyards are on the southern island.
Malborough – The Largest Wine Region of New Zealand
Malborough wine region is not only the largest but also one of the most popular New Zealand’s wine regions in the world, that put the country on the international wine map. Winemakers from Malborough produce a diversity of wines, that includes intense Chardonnay, Pinot Noir as well as wines from aromatic grape varieties. Malborough is divided into three main subzones: Southern Valleys, Wairau Valley, Awatere Valley.
Visit the center of New Zealand’s wine industry and experience some of the most exceptional dining scenes of the country. Malborough wine region boasts an exceptional environment with pristine coastal landscapes, vineyards, and boutique wineries, where you will be able to taste one of the best Sauvignon Blanc in the world.
Wairau Valley around the town of Blenheim is now the most important wine appellation in New Zealand wine country. It makes up 2/3 of the vineyard area of the wine country. The grape variety Sauvignon Blanc produces extremely spicy, aromatic white wines that are unmistakable worldwide. The area is also one of the sunniest in the country. Through the opening to the sea (Cloudy bay), cool air flows into the valley at night, which keeps the acid and sugar in the grapes. Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Riesling, and Gewürztraminer are also grown here.
Nelson – Small But Excellent
Nelson, which is named after the small picturesque town, is located 2 hours’ drive from Marlborough on a valley floor framed by snow-capped mountains. The same grape varieties can be found here as in Marlborough, only the climate is a bit cooler.
Central Otago – The Southernmost Wine Region in the World
Central Otago is the southernmost cultivation wine-growing area in the world and the coolest of the whole New Zealand wine country. Besides, it is also the most spectacular: vines are scattered on narrow terraces on the mountain slopes and snow-covered peaks at the foot. Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay only play the secondary role here. The cool climate grape variety Pinot Noir dominates. It is used to produce wines that, along with those from Burgundy, are among the best in the world.
Discover the southernmost wine region of the world, where Pinot Noir found favorable conditions between snowcapped peaks of the Southern Alps and Beech forests.
Active Volcanoes, Natural Islands, New Zealand History … and Wine
The vineyard in the far south of the North Island, not far from Wellington, is small but is home to some of the country’s most famous wineries. Here too, the focus is on the red Pinot Noir, which is expanded into full-bodied wines.
The second largest growing region in New Zealand has 5000 hectares of vineyards and is around the small towns of Napier and Hastings. Hawke’s Bay is the sunniest wine-growing region and is famous for its Bordeaux blends from Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. But as well Syrah is playing an increasingly important role.
Gisborne is considered the Chardonnay capital of New Zealand. This variety gives rise to highly aromatic wines that smell of pineapple and melon, which are fermented partly in stainless steel and partly in wooden barrels.
Auckland – New Zealand’s largest city and the birth place of best wines
In the 19th century, there were Croats, Lebanese, and English who brought the city’s viniculture to bloom. Auckland is now not just New Zealand’s largest city. The Auckland wine region with Waiheke Island produces some of New Zealand’s most expensive and best wines. Waiheke Island in particular has now made a name for itself with excellent red wines.
After 40 minutes by ferry from Auckland, you enter a new world. Whether on foot, by bike, or by car, everyone will succumb to the charm of the island. Because here visitors can expect wonderful bays, beautiful nature, intact birdlife and lots of good drops of wine.