December 10, 2021
The Land of Plenty
How New Zealand’s diverse landscape lays the foundation for world-class wines.
If wine is about the place, then New Zealand is the land of two halves: The north of the North Island brings subtropical temperatures, keeping the island warm, whereas the South Island’s alpine areas keep Te Waiponamu (South Island) cooler. It’s New Zealand's contrasting geographical diversity that lays the foundation for international award-winning wines.
Since the establishment of the modern wine industry, wine production in New Zealand has seen steady growth, producing 87,000,000 gallons of wine in 2020. New Zealand’s wine industry celebrated its 200th anniversary in September of 2019, making it a relatively young wine producer when compared to European winemakers who have been producing wine for millennia. This small island nation continues to gain international acclaim for Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet, Pinot Noir and Sparkling wine… but that's just the tip of the vine that makes up New Zealand’s illustrious wine repertoire.
The magic of maritime influence
New Zealand's northern and southern climates allow for both warm and cool weather grapes to flourish. A relatively small island country, no New Zealand vineyard is situated more than 75 miles from the ocean. The range and duality in climates and landscape coupled with the cooling of sea breezes, helps the grapes develop in flavor and character. New Zealand’s diverse environment produces dynamic wines that express the character of the regions in which they are grown. The majority of New Zealand’s vineyards are located on or near the east coast of both main islands with the exception of Central Otago which has an inland continental cold climate environment. Most places in New Zealand receive just over 2,000 hours of sunshine yearly, approximately 83 sunny days a year. A combination of rain, soil, shade, and shine provides New Zealand’s 11 main wine regions with their own unique climate, microclimates and soils.
Located in the North of the South Island, the Marlborough District is New Zealand’s largest wine region, and arguably its most famous. Marlborough is one of the sunniest coastal regions in the country, receiving on average 2,780 hours of sun each year. All the while being sheltered by high country, to the west and south, from cooler southern temperatures. Abrupt winds, heated sun, and cool coastal breezes intensifies the ripening period. In the Wairau Valley of Marlborough, The Darling Wines produce one of the region's finest Sauvignon Blanc. The grapes here flourish, sheltered by protective mountains and free-draining soil. The Darling's grapes are sourced from organic vineyards, building a natural resistance to the elements. Grapes develop thicker skins producing more flavor. The Darling 2020 Sauvignon Blanc boasts a fresh aroma of tropical passion fruit with hints of melon and citrus. Another regional heavy hitter is No.1 Family Estate. The No.1 Cuvée Méthode Traditionelle has won multiple international trophies, Gold Medals and Five Star Awards since its release in 1999. Made from 100% Chardonnay, this Blanc de Blancs is made in the traditional, Champagne-style of bottle fermentation.
The stunning soils of the Wairarapa
Lower North East of Te-Ika-a-Maui (North Island), sits the Wairarapa / Martinborough region. Settled in amongst western mountainous zones in lowlands, sits Butterworth Te Muna Estate Wines. The Wairarapa region is partially sheltered by the Tararua Ranges, one of several mountain ranges forming part of the North Island’s backbone. With the dense richness of the Tararua and Remutaka ranges comes alluvial gravel. Rich in minerals, alluvial gravel tends to stay cooler, retaining water all the while, alluvial soils remove sediments and other contaminants from rivers. Long cool summers and low rainfall provide optimum long ripening conditions for the grapes. This, coupled with the knowledge and skill of the land and vine, Butterworth Estate Wines produce a refreshing tropical wine. The 2020 Butterworth Layline Pinot Gris is an inviting bright yellow-green hue. Lifted Jasmine and pear leap from the glass with earthy honey tones lying below florals intermingled with spice.
The home of big reds
Travelling three hours north of Wairarapa, sits sunny Hawke's Bay. Located on the east coast of the North Island, Hawke’s Bay is the second largest wine producing region in New Zealand (behind Marlborough). The Bay has long dry summers but the maritime climate keeps temperatures from soaring too high – perfect for producing Cabernet blends, Syrah and Chardonnay. Surrounding high areas provide shelter, and rich blended loam and clay soil aids in the bold and powerful grapes that make Squawking Magpie’s gold standard Big Red. This 2013 wine is bold and powerful on the palate with layers of black fruits, ground nutmeg, and cedar.
Pinot Noir from the Deep South
Sunshine and coastal breezes produce high-quality fruit for award-winning wines, but this little island nation goes further to push the boundaries of grape cultivation. Deep In the South Island of New Zealand, clinging to arid soils amongst the mountains, rivers and lakes, Pinot Noir thrives in the heart of Central Otago. Celebrated as the most complex of Dionysus’s fruits, Pinot Noir grapes are one of the hardest grapes to grow in the world. Pinot Noir’s thin skin, tight clusters and late-ripening times can all combine to a myriad of obstacles farmers may face. Pinot Noir reaches its peak potential in a semi-arid climate thriving on hot days and cool nights. Central Otago is just the place, with temperature changing by 25+ degrees over the growing season in a single day. Hot days give plenty of heat for the vines to photosynthesis and breath, while cool nights slow down the ripening process, allowing for the grapes to develop deep complexity and strength. Low rainfall contributes to smaller bunch and berry weight, but fruit that is concentrated for award-winning wine.
Wooing Tree Vineyard in the heart of Central Otago produces excellent Pinot Noir. Ripe hand-picked fruit, gentle winemaking and maturation result in a complex and powerful wine. Aromas of ripe cherries, plums and a hint of spicy complexity, make the 2013 and 2018 Wooing Tree Pinot Noir a wine of international accolade. New Zealand’s wine industry has only seen wine produced for export since the 1980s, but through expert diligence and passion, wines from this small country have quickly become awarded and internationally celebrated. The integrity of the grapes lies within the vines, which depend greatly on the environment and climate conditions. New Zealand wine is a true expression of where it came from, rooted in its places, people and culture.
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