Wine Regions of New Zealand: The Jewels of the South Pacific

by Daniel Frigeri

One of the truly glorious aspects of wine education is the perpetual stream of new information that can be discovered every year. There are new vintage wines created from different grapes grown from the ever-changing terroir that surrounds us and it’s our job to capture its vitalizing power with our creative ability. Different climates and soils around the world allow us to open new and delicious viticultural doors (bottles of wine) that, when opened, can transport us through time and space. Wonderous doors like France, Italy, Spain, and North America are a few that many have had the pleasure of walking through, but New Zealand is really something to behold and one not many know about.

New Zealand is home to some of the world’s finest wines that pulsate beautiful cool-climate South Pacific expression. This hidden gem of a wine area is widely known as the “Sauvignon Blanc Capitol of the World” with nearly 50,000 acres grown throughout the country. Other varietals that grow exceptionally well here are Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Gris who all have their own sunny New Zealand “chef’s kiss” to them.

Related: Adelaide Hills, Australia

There are 10 major wine-growing regions (Wine Folly map here) spread across New Zealand:

Northern Regions

NorthlandChardonnay, Pinot Gris. Located on the Northern tip of the North Island, this region is home to a subtropical climate – humid, sunny, and warm.

Auckland – Bordeaux Blend, Chardonnay. This is one of the country’s oldest wine regions located just below Northland home to powerful, intense reds and delightfully aromatic whites.

Hawke’s Bay – Bordeaux blend, Syrah, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Sauvy B. This is the second-largest wine region located on the East Coast of the Northern Island and has been producing fine wine since 1851.

Gisborne – Chardonnay, Pinot Gris. One of New Zealand’s most historic areas located on the East Coast of the Northern Island produces full-flavored and fruit-driven wines.

Waitaki Valley – Pinot Noir, Chardonnay. A long river valley in the South Island with large amounts of limestone that retain heat needed for the cooler autumn season, assisting grapes in need of longer ripening time.

Southern Regions

NelsonSauvy B, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir. Found on the Northern Tip of the country’s Southern Island and benefits greatly from long sunshine hours and a moderating coastal climate.

North Canterbury – Pinot Noir, Sauvy B, Riesling, Pinot Gris. Lowlands situated below the Southern Alps produce excellent boutique and aromatic wines.

Marlborough – Sauvy B, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Riesling. Located on the East Coast of the Southern Island with cool/sunny climate, low rainfall with free-draining and fertile soil makes for world-renown Sauvignon Blanc.

Central OrtegaPinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Riesling. Vast snow-capped mountains and shimmering rivers provide unique terrain throughout the region.

Wairarapa – Pinot, Sauvy B, Pinot Gris. Wairarapa means “glistening waters” in the native Māori (a group of Polynesian peoples that live in New Zealand) language.

The most commendable aspect of New Zealand is its unwavering effort towards a more environmentally healthy tomorrow. Currently, 98% of the country’s vineyards are above the ISO 14001 (International Organization for Standardization) sustainability standard while 7% operate organically, which is impressive! Also, established in 2002, New Zealand Winegrowers is the only unified national winegrower industry body in the world and one that is always welcoming wide-eyed and bushy-tailed wine drinkers, like us, to knock on their viticulturally rich door. Knock, knock…time to explore!



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