New Zealand, which is about one thousand miles southeast of Australia, is the world’s southernmost wine region. It has ten major wine growing regions, which produce a wide variety of single varietal wines.
The history of wine making in New Zealand is highly influenced by its colonial past, with immigrants from the world over trying their hand at, and often succeeding in, producing some of the world’s best up-and-coming wines.
The first grape vines in the country were planted by James Busby, an Englishman who is widely regarded as being the father of Australian wines after establishing Australia’s Hunter Valley as a wine region. In 1836, Busby is recorded as having produced wine on his land for British soldiers stationed near Waitangi. In the 1850s, Roman Catholic missionaries brought grape vines to Hawkes Bay and established the country’s oldest existing vineyard, now known as the Mission Estate Winery.
In 1895, viticulturist Romeo Bragato was asked by the New Zealand Department of Agriculture to investigate if the country was a suitable area for wine production, and after testing the land at William Henry Beetham’s estate, Bragato, concluded that New Zealand was particularly suited to viticulture. Beetham was the first person to plant Pinot Noir and Syrah grapes in the country and his efforts at wine production helped to form the basis for the whole practice of viticulture in New Zealand.
Dalmatian immigrants to New Zealand in the late 1800s and early 1900s also brought their wine making knowledge to the country, helping to expand the young wine producing economy to include table wine, sherry and port.
In the late 1800s, the temperance movement began to take hold in New Zealand, which, along with British immigrants’ preference for beer and spirits over wine, almost halted the fledgling economy in its tracks. During the temperance movement, jurisdictions would vote on whether or not they wanted their areas to be alcohol-free zones, and many of the wine producing regions voted to implement these measures, meaning that alcohol could not be sold or traded in those areas, effectively hobbling the wine economy.
However, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, New Zealand’s wine economy started to revitalise, due in part to a restructuring of the country’s agricultural economy in 1973. Focus was shifted away from more traditional products, such as wool, meat and milk, and products with more potential value, such as wine, were explored. A legislative measure in the 1960s allowed restaurants to have BYO, or bring your own bottle, license. The measure helped to encourage a growing interest in wine in New Zealand.
Since the 1980s, New Zealand wineries, particularly those in Marlborough, have been producing some truly spectacular wines, which some say are also the best in the world.
New Zealand is primarily a maritime climate, and because the country is so thin, vineyards are never more than 120km from the coast. The Southern Alps on the South Island also help to protect the vineyards from strong, westerly winds, which are called the Roaring Forties. These western winds mean there are very few wineries on the west coast of New Zealand.
In 2017, New Zealand produced about 285 million litres of wine that was grown on 37,129 hectares. 38% percent of the wine produced is Sauvignon Blanc, 23% is Pinot Noir, 9% is Chardonnay, 6% is Pinot Gris and 4% is Riesling.
90% of the wine that is produced in New Zealand is exported, with a total revenue of £881,500,000 in 2017.
New Zealand’s best-known wine is from the Sauvignon Blanc grape. Sauvignon Blanc wines make up 86% of the nation’s exports, and Sauvignon Blanc grapes are grown on about 22,000 hectares of land, which takes up about 60% of the total grape plantings.
Sauvignon Blanc, a white wine made in New Zealand, has a wide variety of aromas and flavours, such as blackcurrant leaf, asparagus, green apples, gooseberries and passion fruit.
Pinot Noir, a red wine and the country’s second largest wine variety, has a fruity palate with aromas and flavours of red berries like strawberry, cherries, and raspberries.
Chardonnay, a white wine variety which is grown throughout New Zealand, has flavours of stone fruit, lemons, and apples and a crisp acidity.
One of the most notable producers in the country is Cloudy Bay Vineyards, which is one of the first five vineyards in New Zealand, is primarily known for its Sauvignon Blanc and has helped to further the Country’s reputation amongst the international wine community.
Named after Man O’War Bay, which in turn takes its name from the Man O’War battleships piloted by Captain Cook, the Man O’War winery on Waiheke Island produces some of the most wonderful New World wines. The island itself is incredibly beautiful and the owners of the winery aim to create wines that reflect that beauty, giving them a real sense of place.
Seresin Estate, located in Marlborough, was one of the first New Zealand producers to run, what are classified as, completely organic vineyards. Since its founding, it has been a pioneer in the art of organic winemaking and continues to strive for perfection to this day.