New Zealand: in the antipodes of wine
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New Zealand: in the antipodes of wine

When we think about wine through a geographic traditional vision, we always think about the European vineyards (Spain, France, Italy, Portugal), and the American ones (California, Chile and Argentina). A few decades ago vineyards from South Africa and Australia were included to this wine map. Maybe the most pleasant and suggestive surprise comes from the antipodes – New Zealand.

We know a bit more about its orography and landscapes due to Lord of the Rings, not to mention its ancestral and aboriginal trace elements. We are all aware of their rugby talent (the famous All Blacks), but now New Zealand is positioned in the world with a differentiated product, which promises to please even the most adventurous palates, the ones who search for new flavors and sensory emotions.

It is going to be ever more frequently to find New Zealander wine, what with the spectacular exportation increase during the past five years, in specialized shops and even in supermarket that usually sell good quality wine.

New Zealand’s wine industry has been living an authentic revolution. In its vineyard surface the number of wineries has doubled, and the exportation volume has increased five times. Currently, when the subject is wine, the region enjoys a well-deserved worldwide reputation which carries no relation with its vineyard surface (22.000 hectares), nor with the antiquity of its wineries.

New Zealand is divided into two main islands: North and South. It is close to the South Pole, and has cold, rainy weather. With the term “cool climate viticulture”, New Zealander wine carry a personality which is easy to remember – a fact that has contributed to its popularization.

Regarding quality, the region’s wine are world references. They are alive and fruity, and characterized by their acidity, aromatic concentration, and elegance. The white wines made with sauvignon or chardonnay grapes deserve to be highlighted, just as the red ones made of cabernet sauvignon with a touch of merlot, or their excellent pinot noir.


Most important wine regions
The Northern Island

Its weather is warmer than the South’s, which makes it more apt for the production of some red varieties, such as merlot’s and cabernet sauvignon’s. Here are two of the country’s main wine regions in terms of production: Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne.

Auckland is at the Northeast portion of the island, and is the oldest wine region. It is, specially, a red wine producer zone, being the cabernet sauvignon its main variety.

Gisborne, to the Southeast of Plenty, produces about 10% of the New Zealander grapes. It has high performance alluvial soils, and is basically a white wine producer.

Hawke’s Bay, at the East Coast of the Northern Island, produces over 20% of the region’s grapes. It has been a pioneer in the country’s wine production and, for being a sunny region, is very suitable for the cultivation of vines. Hawke’s Bay is considered the best wine zone for cultivating the noble strains of Bordeaux.

Wairarapa, to the South, has little extended vineyards, therefore its pinot noir reds carry international fame. There, chardonnay, sauvignon and gewürztraminer’s white wine are produced.


The Southern Island
It is the most important in the vitivinicultor aspect. It has over 7.500 hectares of sauvignon blanc, with that being the strain that popularized New Zealand’s wine all over the world. Its most important areas are:

Nelson, on the North Coast, is a wine region that is not very extensive due to the high price of its terrains. The cultivation of the vines dates back to the years 1860-1870. The dominant strains within the region are chardonnay and Riesling.

Marlborough, to the Southeast of Nelson, is New Zealand’s most extensive and important wine region, as well as the most prosperous. It holds about 50% of the country’s vineyards’ surface, being the largest production area. It is one of the country’s driest, sunny areas, offering appropriate weather conditions for many white varieties: müller-thurgau, sauvignon, chardonnay, and Riesling. The cabernet sauvignon is the main red strain.

Canterbury, a city near Christchurch, is at the East of the Island. Its low precipitation and long autumns with hot days and fresh nights are favorable for the cultivation of chardonnay and Riesling. Besides, this region also produces the delicious pinot noir.

Central Otago, to the South, is the country’s southernmost wine region, and also the less extensive. The warm season is brief, the autumns are dry and sunny, with the lowest rainfall index in all New Zealand.


The wine from this distant land that we can more easily come across depend, in the vast majority, of different suppliers, even though it is possible that we find the most common ones easily enough, with prices varying from 20 to 50 euros, and production dates from 2012 to 2015. The most common ones are the whites (chardonnay and sauvignon blanc), and the pinot noir of the following labels: Michael Seresin, Cloud Bay, Kim Crawford, and Paliser Estate.

Also, remember: the flavor of a glass of wine may be compared to a trip that take us far, far away, to the antipodes maybe…


Rafael Paniagua

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