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The New Zealand wine industry is a quality-driven niche player. Within a relatively short time, its wines have acquired a reputation that is the envy of much larger wine-producing countries. International critics rate New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc as the world’s best, and the growing acclaim for New Zealand Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blends and Pinot Noir is helping to further secure New Zealand’s position as a producer of premium wines.
As a nation of islands, New Zealand benefits from the temperature-modulating effect of the sea. The extremes of heat and cold experienced by landlocked, continental countries simply don’t apply. New Zealand also enjoys long, dry autumns that allow slow ripening – the grapes develop intensity as well as good acid structure. This balance between fruit and acidity is one of the key differentiators of New Zealand wines, and an important reason why they work so well with food.
New Zealand’s wine-growing regions are found between latitudes of 34º to 47º south and cover a distance of 1,000 miles (1,600km) from most northern to most southern.
Grapes are grown in a wide range of local climatic conditions and soil types, so highly distinctive regional flavours have emerged. Grape varieties have been chosen to perfectly match the climate
and soil conditions of each wine-growing area.
On Waiheke Island, the stony soils and hot summers are perfect for Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Gisborne is known as the Chardonnay capital of New Zealand. Hawke’s Bay, which includes the Gimblett Gravels area, turns out amazing Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec. Marlborough is Sauvignon Blanc country, while Central Otago is excelling itself in the Pinot Noir department.
New Zealand cuisine draws inspiration from the traditional kitchens of France and Italy as well as the exotic dishes of Asia and the Pacific Rim. Wine styles have evolved to complement this extensive menu. There are bright and zesty wines such as Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling for subtly spiced dishes, while complex, mellow Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blends and Pinot Noir offer a timeless marriage with the classical dishes of Europe.
Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, and in particular Marlborough, has been acclaimed throughout the world as the definitive benchmark style for the varietal. Nowhere else does Sauvignon Blanc yield such pungently aromatic and explosively flavoured wine. Flavours and aromas range from cut-grass and green pepper to gooseberry, tomato stalk, melon, nectarine and passionfruit.
Food matches: Seafood – oysters, smoked salmon/trout, shellfish. Also try salads without too much vinegar or green-herb flavoured foods.
New Zealand Chardonnays are hallmarked by a mouth-filling concentration of citrus and tropical fruit flavours, finely balanced by crisp, authoritative acidity and perfectly rounded with just the right amount of oak. The varied regional conditions combined with winemaker passion and innovation means that from this hallmark, a myriad of ever-evolving styles are emerging to suit many palates and most cuisines. Chardonnays from cooler regions tend to exhibit crisp, citrus and apple flavours, whereas in warmer regions the flavours encompass melon, pineapple and occasionally peach and nectarine.
Food matches: Fish and lighter meats – poached salmon, roast chicken, veal or rabbit with cream/cheese/lemon flavoured sauces.
With its temperate, sunny climate and passionate winemakers, New Zealand is one of the few countries to excel with the fickle Pinot Noir grape. Akin to Old World wines in their fine structure and elegance, New Zealand Pinot Noirs deliver the excitement of the New World with the pure power and intensity of their fruit expression. Typical flavours and aromas include strawberries, raspberries, cherries and spice. With age they develop mushroom and earth characters.
Food matches: Lighter styles with salmon, quail, turkey and veal. Fuller styles with lamb, duck, venison and roast chicken.
For more information on New Zealand wine, please visit www.nzwine.com.