What’s so special about New Zealand wines? Which one shall I try? What’s the best wine region? This beginner’s guide to New Zealand wine answers all questions I get asked about wines from New Zealand when travelling overseas. It covers everything you need to know about this beautiful place 5 million kiwis are lucky to be calling their home and its famous wines.
Let’s start with some geography. Where exactly is New Zealand?
No, New Zealand is not part of Australia, in fact those countries at least 3 ½ hours apart by plane.
“Aotearoa” (that’s Maori for New Zealand and means “land of the long white cloud”) is located in the south-west Pacific and consists of two islands, the North Island and South Island.
New Zealand is long and skinny. It’s about 1,600km (1000 miles) long and has about 15,000km (9,300 miles) of coastline – that’s why it’s hard to find a crowded beach around here.
What does New Zealand look like?
New Zealand is a unique place where you can find many lush landscapes in one spot. Stunning beaches, snow topped mountains, sea-side glaciers, vulcanos, subtropical bush and a lot of rolling green hills. A trip to New Zealand can definitely cut down on your travel budget over the years!
Why do they make wine there?
The maritime climate comes with lots of sunshine and sea breezes creating cool nights and great conditions for growing grapes. No vineyard is more than 120km (80 miles) away from the sea.
What’s so special about New Zealand wine?
New Zealand wines are very distinctive! Cool temperatures allow flavours to develop while retaining acidity creating great balance for which New Zealand wines are renowned for.
What are the top 3 wine regions in New Zealand?
Over 700 wineries are producing a wide range of wines across eight major wine regions. Marlborough is located at the top of the South Island and is New Zealand’s largest wine region in terms of production. It’s famous for Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Rosé.
Hawkes Bay is New Zealand’s oldest wine growing region and it is located in the East of the North Island, close to Napier. It is home to award-winning red blends and Chardonnays.
Although Central Otago is only taking the 4th spot in terms of size it is probably one of the most known regions, as its producers managed to create a cult status and great following for their Pinot Noir wines.
What’s New Zealand’s signature wine?
Marlborough Sav, Savvy, Sauvignon Blanc, whatever you want to call it. It’s the backbone of the New Zealand wine industry and with over 25,000ha planted in 2021 it is the key grape variety.
Pinot Noir is next in line with over 5000ha planted followed by Chardonnay and Pinot Gris.
Are all New Zealand wines organic?
No. While most wineries are certified members of Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand, only around 100 wine labels in 2021 were certified organic. You can find out more about organic winegrowing in New Zealand here.
What are some popular New Zealand wine brands?
Outside of New Zealand you most likely come across one of the following wine brands: Cloudy Bay, Brancott Estate (formerly known as Montana), Villa Maria, Kim Crawford. I could obviously go on and on as it all depends on where in the world you are.
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Travelling to New Zealand soon? Check out my New Zealand Food & Wine Festival Guide to meet some of the makers and shakers of the New Zealand wine industry in person.