About New Zealand Wine

New Zealand’s climate, soil and water combine to make its wine quite unique. The vineyards of New Zealand enjoy an oceanic climate. Here, the climate is influenced by the sea, meaning there are cooler winters and hotter summers; this also means that the warm clear days and cool nights provide the perfect environment for the slow ripening process that creates unique tastes. In addition, the majority of vineyards in New Zealand are situated in clear draining alluvial valleys. The majority of New Zealand’s mountains consist of these deposits. Responsible for the varying quality aspects of the area’s wine, these deposits are frequently cited on the label of the wine.

Started late in 1970, New Zealand wine production was non-existent prior to that due to the small amount of grapes grown until then. At present, there are ten major wine growing areas in New Zealand. These are located in widely separated areas of New Zealand, each one varying in climate and ecology. The variation in climate between the different regions of New Zealand means that the harvest season for the same wine can vary by up to 8 weeks between wineries in different parts of the country. The major winery areas include Northland, Gisborne, Hawkes Bay, Auckland, Walkato, Wairarapa, Marlborough, Nelson, Canterbury/Waipara Valley, and Central Otago.

The first area in New Zealand to have vines planted in 1820 was Northland. It remains, however, the smallest wine producing region of the country, mainly because winemaking was teetering on the edge of extinction here until winemaking began attracting a bigger interest in the last few years. The Northland winegrowing area is rapidly growing with three distinct grape planting areas: Kaitaia, around the bay of the islands, and near Northlands biggest city Whangarei. The regional wines — Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Chardonnay — are extremely popular as the area provides the warmest ripening conditions in New Zealand; thus these grapes are among the most highly grown in this region. Northland’s vineyards are built on level and lightly sloping land. In Northland the soils consist of shallow clay soils on top of sandy-clay soils.

The world’s easternmost vineyards are located in Gisborne. These vineyards get a lot of sunshine hours; they see first light each morning and they get shelter from New Zealand’s mountain range to the west. Around half of the area’s vineyards produce Chardonnay, and the winegrowers of Gisborne have renamed it the Chardonnay capital of the world. Built mostly on level land, the vineyards here have soils consisting of alluvial loams on top of a sandy and volcanic layer.

New Zealand’s second biggest vinery area is Hawkes Bay. There is a wide variety of types of soil, ranging from rich silty loams to readily draining sand, and from stony soil to dense silts. For even one grape, ripening dates in this area can vary by as much as a month, depending on whether you are growing in the hot loams of the lower areas or in the higher altitude, and hence cooler, area around central Hawkes Bay. Perhaps THE most popular grape here is Chardonnay, but the long hours of sunshine at Hawkes Bays mean that red grapes, which ripen later, such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah, are also a popular variety of grape here.

The more traditional winemaking region of New Zealand is Auckland. The most popular grapes planted here are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay. Soils in Auckland consist mostly of shallow clays atop tough silty-clay subsoil

Southward of Auckland, Waikato has smaller vineyards spread out amid farmland. Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Cabernet Sauvignon are the most popular wines produced here. In this area, soils consist of chunky loams atop clay subsoil. Located in far north New Zealand, Waikato has a fairly warm climate.

The most popular grape grown in Wairarapa is Pinot Noir. This is the most acclaimed grape of the region. This grape has achieved success thanks to the focused attention the wine makers of the region have put into developing its quality. The wine production in this area is comparatively small, but the quality of the wines turned out contributes to the reputation of Zealand’s wine quality.

Marlborough’s vineyards are able to produce intense fruit flavors, mainly because the area enjoys hot days and cooler evenings along with free-draining alluvial soils laying on top of gravely subsoils. Its brand new approach and taste of Sauvignon Blanc has spread around the globe. This area also grows a lot of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Riesling. Its Sauvignon Blanc has earned Marlborough a great reputation among winemakers and customers alike; Marlborough is well on its way to becoming New Zealand’s largest and best known wine growing area. Made here as well are sparkling wines along with a great assortment of white and red wines.

An assortment of grapes optimal for cooler weather are grown in Nelsons vineyards. Located to the west of the mountain, this area has a rain shadow effect that stretches to the west; additionally, the coastline helps regulate the temperatures. Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, and Pinot Noir are the most popular varieties of this region.

There are two major regions in Canterbury where wine is made. They are in the vicinity of the city of Christchurch and the quite recent development of Waipara. The vineyards consist mainly of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc; Canterbury is the fourth biggest wine area of New Zealand.

The world’s southernmost wine growing area is Central Otago. Possessing New Zealand’s most severe seasons, it has a continental climate. The soils consist of silt loams mixed with substantial deposits of mica minerals and schists. Planted here are mostly Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling. With clean fresh air and sparkling views, Central Otago is a gorgeous area. Central Otago’s wine is known for expressing the area’s splendor.


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