Wednesday Wisdom: New Zealand Wine
In the last 40 years, New Zealand has come up as a great wine making country (especially when it comes to their sauvignon blanc). Though they may not be the size of their oceanic neighbor, they use the space they do have to make some delicious wines. Wine making has been around in New Zealand since the 1800’s, but their wine making was filled with obstacles. The first vineyards were actually planted in the early 1800’s and it was James Busby who made the country’s first wine in 1839. While grapes could be grown and wine could be made, there weren’t a lot of people on the island who knew how to make wine. There was also the issue of wineries not being able to sell wine to actual consumers; they could sell to hotels, but only if certain requirements were met. After World War II, wine could be sold in wine shops and it wasn’t until the ’60s when wine could be sold in restaurants (though not after 10 p.m.). But since the 1980s, the New Zealand wine market has taken off.
Currently, there are over 700 wineries and over 80,000 acres of vineyards. Despite any laws or financial issues, the New Zealand wine market just continued to grow. One of the best things about growing wine in New Zealand is the proximity of the vineyards to the ocean. Because New Zealand is a (rather small) island, no vineyard is more than 80 miles from the ocean. There are long, sunny days and the ocean breezes cool the nights. This weather allows for the grapes to ripen evenly over a longer period of time while also maintaining their acidity. While rain (and earthquakes) can be an issue, the wines that come from these grapes are often pure, intense, and complex.
The most popular varietal to come out of New Zealand is sauvignon blanc. It is the leading wine in the country and the most popular export (personally, I always have a New Zealand sauvignon blanc in my house…). The sauvignon blancs that are made here are unlike any other sauvignon blanc in the world. It’s fermented in stainless steel as to not give an oaky flavor to the wine and so that it maintains its fruity flavors. They are fresh, vibrant, and often have tropical fruit overtones as well as notes of fresh cut grass, grapefruit, and limes. While sauvignon blanc is the most popular wine, they also produce pinot noir, chardonnay, riesling, pinot gris, syrah, cabernet sauvignon blends, sparkling, and gewürztraminer.
New Zealand may not be the largest, but it boasts eleven different wine regions. There’s Marlborough, which is its flagship wine region and put the country on the map as a legitimate wine country. There’s also Auckland, home to some of the biggest wineries, and Bay of Islands, which is where the first vines in New Zealand were planted. The wineries in New Zealand are often smaller and the vineyards are surrounded by beautiful landscape. It’s a destination for wine lovers that should not be missed. But in the meantime, definitely pick up a New Zealand sauvignon blanc to enjoy on a nice summer’s day.