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New Zealand

New Zealand is two small islands in the South Pacific – but it’s a big deal in the world of wine. The country’s unique geographical situation and modern approach make New Zealand wines some of the most popular in the world.

The country is divided into North and South islands, both home to major New Zealand wine regions. With a combined length of 1,000 miles, the islands of New Zealand boast some 700 wineries.

The New Zealand wine map has filled in considerably in just a few short decades. Compared to its New World competitors in Australia and the United States, New Zealand was late in developing a modern wine industry. In 1960, despite its largely agricultural economy, the country had only 1,000 acres of vines, mostly planted around Auckland on the North Island. By 1980, there were 14,000 acres, as development focused around the Marlborough region on the South Island. Today, New Zealand has more than 80,000 acres of vines planted on both islands.

What happened? The explosive growth in New Zealand wine production can be traced to the success of entrepreneurial winemakers who first planted vines in Marlborough in the early 1970s. The new wines were meant for export, and glowing international reviews helped New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc take the world by storm. Deep flavors of tropical fruits, typically accented by a grassy quality and crisp acidity, made New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs uniquely delicious. Their success prompted the development of new wineries throughout the country, as well as successful experimentation with other grapes, including Pinot Noir (now the second-most farmed variety in New Zealand), Chardonnay and Riesling.

The North Island is dotted with volcanic peaks; the South Island is ridged by the mountain chain known as the Southern Alps. These features protect New Zealand wine regions from rain and wind, allowing abundant sunshine, while the surrounding ocean helps maintain steady, cool temperatures. The conditions are ideal for both Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, which fare best when they can ripen fully but slowly in cool-climate growing regions.

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