Where would the New Zealand wine industry be without Cloudy Bay and Sauvignon Blanc? Fortunately we will never have to know. That famous partnership was forged at a time in the 1980s when New Zealand was discovering its potential and it gave momentum and exposure to winemakers who continue to excel and explore. White wines are dominant in the largely cool climate, but Pinot Noir is a star and other reds are on the rise.
The vine arrived in New Zealand with the English missionary Samuel Marsden in 1819, but it was almost twenty years before a British official, James Busby, made the first wine. His vineyard was destroyed in a clash with the Maori in 1845 and an industry did not develop until over a hundred years later. Investment and interest began in the sixties, initially on the North Island, but it was experimentation on the cooler South Island that brought the startling results of the Marlborough Sauvignon Blancs.
Climate and Conditions
New Zealand has a climate with more similarities to Europe than any other major New World producer. This has given it a niche that it has rapidly learnt to fill with extraordinary aptitude. The North Island is warmer and more dependable when it comes to the ripening of grapes, whilst the South Island is harder work but can be more rewarding. Over 10 degrees of latitude separate the most northerly and southerly vineyards, a length which few other countries can match.
Wines of Today
New Zealand produces a tiny percentage of the world's wine, but its small population ensures that much is exported. The boom which began in the eighties has never subsided and, with a refreshing lack of complacency, improvement and innovation have continued apace. New Zealand Pinot Noir is just as likely to be served in the finest restaurants as a Sauvignon Blanc and everyday wine production can compete on the shelves. The industry punches far above its weight and will continue to do so.
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