in New Zealand is a relatively new idea, though there have been vineyards in the Auckland
area since the turn of the century. That's the 20th Century, by the
Today we're seeing a wave of New Zealand wines arriving on our shores.
Many are quite pleasant. A handful are actually worth the price they put on them.
It's not the growers or wineries with the high prices, to a large
extent. Many American importers, eyeing the high prices for domestic
wines, feel they can profit handsomely with optimistic numbers on the shelf for
A slightly disturbing trend is for wines with a modest amount of residual
sweetness. A trade tasting featuring more than 20 New Zealand wineries
offered few stone, bone dry white wines. We were disappointed by the small
number of "connoisseur-quality" wines, as many seem to be catering to
the wine-drinker who's "graduating" from Californian White Zinfandel
or Big Producer Chardonnay.
Some of the world's large wine companies are now working in New Zealand and this
is bringing a lot of "mass produced" wines to the market. As a
result, we're seeing wines made at the direction of accounting departments and
marketing geniuses, rather than by dedicated grape growers who have an
understanding of what makes a good bottle of wine.
As the country is comprised of relatively small islands, the growing conditions are
marine-influenced. Yet given the length of New Zealand, the climate ranges from that
similar to Germany at the cool, southern end of the country, to that much like some
rather warm areas of Spain in the north. We tend to think of New Zealand
more as a white wine-producing region, yet a few red wines have caught our attention
Auckland's wine regions are to the
northwest and west. It's possible for Cabernet to ripen in this area.
Waikato and the Bay of Plenty
are primarily dairy and cattle lands, though some viticulture has taken root here.
Waikato tends to be more humid, so it may be possible to produce interesting
botrytis-affected wines here.
Gisborne is a rather fertile region and
Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Gewürztraminer thrive there.
Hawkes Bay is an important region, as it
was the first major commercial wine producing area for New Zealand. There are
numerous producers there, currently, but only a couple have wines in our market.
Martinborough, near the southern
tip of the northern island of New Zealand, is relatively recently a major wine producing
area. There are now about 20-something wineries there, the Ata Rangi winery making
an extraordinary Pinot Noir of which we receive a few bottles annually. This is an area
with gravelly soil, fairly dry climate and a will to experiment. Syrah and
Sangiovese are recent plantings, so we shall see!
at the northern tip of New Zealand's south island. It's only since the 1970's that
the region has been a wine-growing area. Cloudy Bay winery is probably the
best-known producer around the world, but there are more than 40 other wine-making
concerns in this area today. Sauvignon Blanc is the major ambassador from the
Nelson, Canterbury and Otago are other regions on the south
island. These are less well-known at the present time.
The Central Otago appellation has been getting good press for its Pinot
Noirs. We've tasted a number of wines from this area and find it to be
"promising," but can't say winemakers in Burgundy or the west coast of
the U.S. need lose sleep over the potential competition. It's a region
which will probably produce really good wines every-so-often, but not year after
New Zealand has 643 wineries presently. In 1996 there were some 7,800
hectares of vineyards. As of the end of 2009, something like
hectares are planted with grape vines!
Forecasts For the 2012 harvest:
53% Sauvignon Blanc
15% Pinot Noir
2% Cabernet Sauvignon
11% others (Pinot Gris, Semillon, Muller-Thurgau, Syrah, etc.)
Some New Zealand Selections