Most wine travelers to New
Zealand arrive in Auckland and then head south to the well known
wine regions of Hawkes Bay and Martinborough on the
North Island and onwards to Marlborough and Otago on
the South Island. These areas represent the majority of New
Zealand wines that are sold in wine and liquor stores
While not large in landmass,
like Australia, the New Zealand islands extend more than 1600 kilometers
along a north-east/south-west axis. The distance and resulting changes
in temperature dictate the establishment of appropriate cultivars as
well as the harvest periods.
In New Zealand, the further
south you go the cooler the climate becomes, save for some local
elevation and coastal considerations.
For example, Otago, which
has the most southerly
cultivation in the world, ripens this white grape four to six weeks
later than Chardonnays around Auckland and north.
The “Northland” Region is
considered subtropical and with its abundant heat and humidity caused
some problems with grape growing in the early days of the industry.
World renowned research into canopy management created better
cultivation and fruit quality and allowed for an expansion of red
varieties to the roster of whites previously in production in this
area. Syrah and
ripen well here in the warmer climes with leeward sites like Waiheke
west of Auckland which also benefits from lower rainfall and sloping
The warmer climate aids tourism
because the area has many bays, islands, and beaches. Swimming, surfing
and boating are major pursuits in this warmest part of the country. This
area is also the historical cradle of Maori culture and there are
many opportunities to visit Maori life, culture and history.
Waiheke Island lies just
a 35 minute ferry ride from Auckland Harbour.
home to many art galleries, boutiques and 30 vineyards, the 20 or so
wineries are small production, high quality producers whose varieties
include the Bordeaux reds and whites,
There are plenty of small hotels and B&Bs and taxis and public bus
transportation are available. For the more independent types, car
rentals and mountain bikes are also available.
The New Zealand Wine Industry is
presently in a bit of a funk.
in the last few years has caused grape prices, especially
to drop. Marlborough
Sauvignon Blanc can be had in
Australia and New Zealand for $5 a bottle. The wine has found
its way into casks (“bag in the box”) for considerably less. When
Canadians are paying $20 and up for the same product, you clearly see
that someone other than grape growers are benefiting.
Wineries and growers are being
squeezed because of the
excess inventory and some major wineries are in receivership. The
industry reduced grapes harvested in 2010 by 19,000 tons – 7% lower than
the previous harvest. Marlborough alone reduced by 10,000 tons despite
an increase in vineyard acreage. Growers are committed to keep the next
few harvests lower in production to recapture their previous profitable
Possibly sensing that the wine
world wants something different, Montana Winery (Brancott
wines) this past year introduced a new/old variety to the domestic
market: Sauvignon Gris.
This old Bordeaux variety is enjoying a bit of a revival in its homeland
so maybe it’s time to try it out in the New World.