New Zealand's long growing season and cool maritime climate make ideal conditions for grape growing, producing some distinctive, premium-quality wines.
New Zealand’s major grape-growing areas are in the dry, sunny eastern regions, with the three main areas Gisborne, Hawke’s Bay and Marlborough.
Other key wine-making regions are Auckland, Martinborough, Nelson, Waipara and Central Otago. These regions span the latitudes of 36 to 45 degrees and cover 1,600 kilometres (1,000 miles).
The northern hemisphere equivalent would run from Bordeaux (between the latitudes of 44 and 46 degrees) down to southern Spain.
As a result of grapes being grown in such a range of mini-climates and soil types, a diverse range of styles has developed.
Sauvignon Blanc is New Zealand’s most commonly planted grape, accounting for more than two-thirds of all New Zealand wine.
According to Bob Campbell MW (Master of Wines), New Zealand has built a reputation for producing the world’s best Sauvignon Blanc. Its unique style is more pungently fruity than any other wine from the grape variety.
Chardonnay is New Zealand’s most widely grown variety, thriving in all of the major wine-growing regions. Hawke’s Bay, Gisborne and Marlborough are particularly well known for their Chardonnay, although each region produces its own distinct style. Gisborne Chardonnays, for example, tend to be softer, with ripe peach, melon and pineapple flavours. Hawke’s Bay produces a more concentrated wine, with peach and grapefruit flavours. Marlborough, New Zealand’s largest Chardonnay-producing region, tends to produce zesty wines with good acidity and strong white peach and citrus flavours.
New Zealand Pinot Noir also has a strong international reputation and is the country’s second-most exported wine after Sauvignon Blanc. Pinot Noir relishes cool temperatures and low rainfall, so performs particularly well in the Martinborough and Central Otago regions.
Bob Campbell believes Pinot Noir is one of New Zealand's most exciting wine styles, and it's growing in both reputation and sales. He defines it as very fruity, tending to be softer and more approachable than the wines of the benchmark Burgundy.
New Zealand also excels in a number of other varieties such as Riesling, Pinot Gris, Syrah and Bordeaux-style reds.
Wine tourism thriving
There is a growing awareness of wine tourism in New Zealand, and visitors are encouraged to explore and interact by following the Classic New Zealand Wine Trail from Hawke’s Bay to Marlborough.
The main wine regions each host an annual wine and food festival, and most of New Zealand’s wineries offer tastings. Many of the larger wineries run restaurants or cafés as part of their business, and offer both retail and online wine sales.
Tohu Wines was the first indigenous branded wine to be produced for the New Zealand export market.
It is a wholly owned Māori company, which believes in the shared ancient traditions of spirituality and harmony with the land. All Tohu vineyards are certified by Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand, a management system that promotes environmentally responsible practices in the country’s vineyards and wineries.