Grapes and Styles: Although the wine scene is dominated by one grape variety, New Zealand has a myriad of grapes and styles are:
Whites: Sauvignon Blanc. Is there any other country in the world of wine that is so synonymous with one grape variety? Since the late 1990’s its sharp, punchy flavours and pronounced aromas have built the New Zealand industry we know today. Other cool climate varieties make great wines such as Riesling, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer are succeeding as well as the international classic Chardonnay.
Reds: Pinot Noir is the most common red variety here, making a variety of styles from the delicate Burgundian types to bigger, juicer New World styles. Syrah and Cabernetmake some serious age worthy spicy wines.
Sparkling: With its cool climate it is no surprise that some great sparkling wines are made here, mostly from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir but some producers are making 100% Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc.
Food: The classic Sauvignon Blancs are great paired with seafood, especially fish like makeral or sardines, where the sharp acidity cuts through the oiliness. Spicy Mexican or Indian dishes work well too with Sauvignon Blanc as it is refreshing on the palate. Whites from other aromatic varieties like Riesling and Gewurztraminer go extremely well with Oriental cuisine. Central Otago Pinot Noir is perfect with poultry such as turkey, quail or duck or even some of the meatier types of fish such as salmon. Try some Hawkes Bay Syrah with some New Zealand lamb; Perfect!
History: Wine making in New Zealand goes back to the mid 19th century but it was not until the 1980's that the country’s potential was realised. The widely planted Muller Thurgau was replaced with Sauvignon Blanc and the wine markets of the world started to take interest in their wines. Over the past 30 years the industry has got it right, their well placed in the market as they produce quality over quantity.
Rules and Regions: Made up of 10 major wine regions, the most important being Marlborough, known for its Sauvignon Blanc s and Central Otago for its Pinot Noir. The wine making rules in New Zealand are fairly relaxed, any suitable land can be planted with any suitable grapes; however suitable land is quickly running out. This has been a main reason why quality over quantity exists here; bulk wines are just not possible. When a region or place is mentioned on a label, 75% of the grapes used must come from there, and if a single grape is mentioned 85 % must be from that grape.