Review: New Zealand Wines

PUBLISHED: 10:18 30 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:08 20 February 2013

Villa Maria's Katoa Vineyard, just south of Gisborne

Villa Maria's Katoa Vineyard, just south of Gisborne

Two things have happened recently to prompt me to investigate New Zealand wines. The first was an excellent food & wine matching evening with my sister at her country pub in Wales, where we paired green lipped mussels, lamb Well...

New Zealand's North and South Islands span over 1600 km, in the south-west Pacific. Although the climatic is generally mild and temperate, there are regional differences that tend to be reflected in their wines: generally those from the North have more weight and richness while those from the cooler South Island have higher levels of acidity.

There are eight major wine regions with an array of vineyards from small scale, boutique wineries to large multi- nationals.

Auckland has the warmest vineyard areas in the country and the longest history of wine making. Bordeaux style red wines from Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are most successful here, though vintages do vary as rain can be a problem at harvest time.

Gisbourne is the Chardonnay capital of New Zealand. At the most easterly point of North Island, it is the first region in the world to see the new day's sun. Long hours of sunshine and sea breezes create perfect growing conditions for rich, luscious Chardonnay, bursting with white peach and tropical fruit flavours.

Hawkes Bay, New Zealands second largest wine region, is also known for Chardonnay, but its reputation is for red wine. Some flagship Bordeaux 'look-alikes' come from the warmer soils of 'Gimblett Gravels'. Recently Syrah has been brilliantly successfull- worth watching out for.

Martinborough on the southern tip of South Island has established a name for itself with small boutique wineries specializing in Pinot-Noir, with rich, scented aromas of cherry and spice.

The sunniest and largest wine region on the South Island is Marlborough. Sunny days and cool nights produce wines of great intensity with high levels of acidity and vibrant fruit flavours. Sauvignon Blanc is the flagship wine with flavours of gooseberry, passion fruit and lime. The home of iconic Cloudy Bay.

Nelson has a reputation as a paradise for anyone looking for an 'alternative' lifestyle. Blissfully peaceful with fruit orchards and dairy farming, it has a few vineyards in the sheltered valleys, growing white varieties such as chardonnay, sauvignon and Riesling - often used for sweet, 'late harvest' wines.

Canterbury, on the east coast of South Island, was a late starter to wine, not beginning in 1977. In an area renowned for sheep farming, Riesling and Pinot Noir are now gaining ground.

In Central Otago snow-capped mountains shelter the world's most southerly vineyards. The long, dry sunny summers and cool winters suit Pinot Noir, a notoriously difficult variety to grow which in the last 20 years has become one of New Zealand's most sought after wines. Its strong cherry, plum and spicy flavours suit a wide range of dishes from chicken and salmon to Pacific Rim cuisine.

New Zealand's wine industry is still growing in response to an increase in demand. Sauvignon Blanc may have been first to put New Zealand on the world wine map, but Pinot Noir is now getting lots of attention, and Syrah may be the one to look out for next.

Here are some recommendations widely available in Derbyshire:

Cloudy Bay Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir - Smith's Ashbourne.
Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc & Pinot Noir - Widely available Te mata Chardonnay Hawkes Bay.
Southbank Estate Syrah.
Roaring Meg Central Otago - Majestic wines. Derby
Vidal organic Syrah 2007 Waitrose 734

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