Rough Regions Guide
New Zealand extends 1,600 kilometres from sub-tropical Northland to the world’s most southerly wine region, Central Otago. All areas are influenced by the moderating effect of the maritime climate, with long sunshine hours and nights cooled by sea breezes.
The wines are famous for their purity of fruit, vibrancy and intensity. The long ripening period is a result of cool temperatures and enables flavour development while retaining fresh acidity, a balance for which New Zealand wines are renowned. Despite its fame, New Zealand wine production is relatively small in global terms, barely entering the top 30 producing countries worldwide. With a limited domestic market, most producers rely on the international export market. The production of fine wine is very recent, with the first vines being planted in the 1970s. The industry is centred on international varieties, and particularly on Sauvignon Blanc.
There are several distinct winegrowing regions spread throughout New Zealand, with the majority on the east coast of the islands, in the rain shadow of the mountains.
For the yachting industry, the only wine sold in any larger quantities is Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough. This shows the typical style of a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc with pungent, grassy green and lime aromas, coupled with mango and passion fruit. The wines are mostly unoaked, crisp and lean in style, and are made for early consumption when the fruit is in its prime. Marlborough is located at the north tip of the South Island, and although the key variety is Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are also widely planted. The past decade has seen a development in the sub-regional segmentation of Marlborough to reflect the differences in climate and soil relating to wine style. Awatere and Wairau are the most prominent of these sub-regions.
Central Otago is located further south on the South Island near the Southern Alps. The climate here is rather cool and the large diurnal ranges – the difference in temperature between day and night - make it a perfect place for Pinot Noir. Here, it has enough time to develop complex flavours and richness. Central Otago produces New Zealand’s finest Pinot Noir, though it also produces beautiful whites from the Riesling and Pinot Gris grape varieties.
Located on the east side of the North Island, protected by the mountains, Hawke´s Bay is the warmest of New Zealand’s major wine regions. Thanks to its beneficial climate, this is the only place in the country that can properly ripen Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, which have become the main varieties of the area. Syrah also does very well here and is growing in popularity.