As a Kiwi, I am justifiably proud of the success and quality of New Zealand wine today. My idyllic country homeland is made up of two little drops in the ocean, two unspoiled islands in the South Pacific. New Zealand is the most isolated country in the world and the last habitable land mass on earth to be populated. Even today, only five per cent of the population are people, the rest are animals. Sheep outnumber people seven to one.
No part of the country is more than eighty miles from the sea resulting in a cool, maritime climate perfect for producing juicy, mouthwatering wines with leap-out-of-the glass aromatics.
New Zealand remains a true paradise, where snow-capped mountains nestle beside rivers, lakes, and forests, all surrounded by miles of uninhabited golden beaches. No part of the country is more than eighty miles from the sea resulting in a cool, maritime climate perfect for producing juicy, mouthwatering wines with leap-out-of-the glass aromatics.
Almost all New Zealand’s vineyards and wineries are certified sustainable by Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand, highlighting a strong desire to ensure that the land remains as pristine in three generations’ time as it is now. Ecology is important to New Zealanders — about one-third of the country is protected national park and Blue Lake in Nelson Lakes National Park, has the clearest water in the world.
New Zealand wine is exciting today because of the way that the people growing and making the wine are harnessing the gifts nature provides, and continuously evolving their wine styles and practices — it’s a wine growing country worthy of deeper exploration by wine lovers. The New Zealand wine industry is by no means resting on its laurels, in fact as it matures the wines are simply getting better, more interesting and more diverse.
In tandem with the exploration and study of site, there has been a lot of work on matching the best planting material and viticultural methods to those sites. Planting densities, clones, pruning and trellising systems and the evolution of sustainable, organic and biodynamic farming. Now, just this decade, we are beginning to see the effect of these factors with the added benefit of vine age.
This is particularly noticeable in the quality renaissance of New Zealand Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Today, New Zealand Pinot Noir can be very site-expressive, perfumed, and ethereal wines with freshness, vibrancy and elegant layers of red and black fruits, earth, and floral aromas. The best Chardonnays are tight and texturally compelling with flinty, mineral complexity and mouthwatering acidity. Both styles benefit from a more restrained approach to oak handling than in previous decades.
Hand harvesting, native yeast ferment, old-barrel fermentation and maturation and lees ageing are providing a new spin on the variety and producing some truly compelling wines.
Winemakers are exploring a richer assortment of winemaking styles. A particularly exciting advance is the growing prominence of alternate styles of Sauvignon Blanc. While the classic style of pungent, fruity, stainless steel ferment Sauvignon Blanc will continue to be New Zealand’s calling card, there is now a greater range of styles to explore. Hand harvesting, native yeast ferment, old-barrel fermentation and maturation and lees ageing are providing a new spin on the variety and producing some truly compelling wines.
Marlborough is New Zealand’s most famous region, it is dry, sunny yet cool, developing extreme aromatic intensity and juicy acidity in its wines, irrespective of variety. Diverse soils, ranging from 20,000 to 240 million years old, and a cool climate moderated by Antarctic winds, result in wines with a spectrum of fruity flavours. Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is globally renowned; less-famous, but worth discovering are the region’s citrusy Chardonnays, red-fruited Pinot Noirs and fresh, pear-flavored Pinot Gris wines. Notable producers are Corofin and Staete Landt.
Matt Deller is one of just 47 Masters of Wine in the US and an internationally respected wine judge, panelist and speaker