Everything You Need To Know About New Zealand Wine

Everything You Need To Know About New Zealand Wine

Today we will be traveling to a wine region that is not only one of my favorites, but also a major up-and-coming area putting out wines with consistent quality and remarkable value – New Zealand!  Perhaps you know New Zealand for its beautiful landscapes (remember Lord of the Rings?), cute kiwi birds, or Lorde.  But this island is actually booming with wine production, and here’s what you need to know:



New Zealand


Major Regions 

  • Marlborough
  • Central Otago
  • Hawke’s Bay
  • Martinborough/Wairarapa/Wellington
  • Auckland
  • Northland
  • Canterbury/Waipara
  • Bay of Plenty/Waikato
  • Gisborne
  • Nelson

Get to know the major wine regions of New Zealand

[Source:  Southern Wines]



36° to 45° South (equal to almost 1,000 miles).  Need a Northern hemisphere comparison?  Think Bordeaux, France spanning all the way to Jerez, Spain.


Notable Varieties

  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Pinot Noir
  • Chardonnay



  • 1836 saw British oenologist James Busby attempt his craft in Northland.
  • The oldest vineyard was established in the 1850’s by French Roman Catholic missionaries in Hawke’s Bay.
  • Croatian immigrants from the Dalmatian coast established vineyards in Auckland at the turn of the twentieth century, producing simple table and sweet dessert wines.
  • The basis of modern NZ winemaking today is based off of the practices of William Henry Beetham and his French wife, who in the late 1800s had significant success with Pinot Noir and Hermitage (Syrah) in Wairarapa
  • Wine was not a significant commodity for New Zealand until the 1970s, mainly due to the focus on agriculture exports, beer and liquor preferences by residents, and legislative restrictions such as prohibition.  After major changes to global trade agreements regarding agriculture, New Zealand began to explore other economic opportunities that could produce high returns.  The answer?  Wine!



Maritime.  The seas heavily influence the weather and provide for cool summers and mild winters.  The consistently cool nights during warmer months of the growing season allow for grapes to retain their acidity, making for bright and crisp wines.



Stony.  Local sandstone, known as greywacke, is prominent in the soil due to the mountainous terrain of the country.  Limestone is also present, which imparts a chalky quality that is preferred in Pinot Noir production.  Both the loose, stony topsoil and the solid bedrock underneath provide an important mechanism for temperature regulation, which helps to protect the quality of the grapes.


Fast Facts

  • The “Six O’Clock Swill” was a thing up until the 1960s –  bars and pubs were only open for an hour after the end of the working day!
  • Stainless steel is the (almost) universal choice for wine production in New Zealand.  This allows for the grape’s fresh, natural flavors to be the star of the show, while simultaneously preserving the wines’ bright acidity.
  • Over 90% of New Zealand wines have screw-cap tops, thanks to the NZ Screwcap Wine Seal Initiative which began in 2001.  This helps to ensure there is no spoilage from cork taint or oxidation.  The positive aspect to this is fresh, high-quality wine.  The downside is that your wines won’t be able to age the same way a corked wine does, as it cannot “breathe”.
  • Wine surpassed wool exports, a major agricultural commodity since the 19th century, as of 2007 according to The Economist.
  • New Zealand produces about 1% of the world’s wine, all within an area slightly larger than Oregon.
  • Marlborough has achieved fame for its outstanding Sauvignon Blanc – some critics have called it the best in the world, due to its expressions of both New and Old World styles – exotic, tropical fruits and grassy notes married with tangy citrus and subtle minerality.

New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is like a child who inherits the best of both parents—exotic aromas found in certain Sauvignon Blancs from the New World and the pungency and limy acidity of an Old World Sauvignon Blanc like Sancerre from the Loire Valley.  

Mark Oldman



Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Sophia Bordeaux Blend, Hawke’s Bay $59.99

Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir, Waipara $39.99

Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir, Marlborough $39.99

Peregrine Chardonnay, Central Otago $25.99

Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough $14.99

Brancott Estate Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough $10.99


Here’s to learning something new today – cheers!



“New Zealand wine”  Wikipedia.  Wikipedia, 29 July 2017.  Web.  27 Aug. 2017.

Fuseworks Media.  “The New Zealand Screwcap Wine Seal Initiative – Ten Years On”  Voxy.  Digital Advance Ltd, 1 Feb. 2011.  Web.  27 Aug. 2017.

“Wine in New Zealand: At the Sweet Spot”  The Economist.  The Economist Newspaper Ltd, 27 Mar. 2008.  Web  27 Aug. 2017.

Eigel, Katie.  “7 Regions Define New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc”  Wine Folly.  Wine Folly, LLC, 6 Mar. 2015.  Web  27 Aug. 2017.


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