The idyllic country of New Zealand 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 percent of the population is people, the rest is animals. Sheep outnumber people seven to one.
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 80 miles from the sea, resulting in a cool, maritime climate perfect for producing juicy, mouth-watering wines with leap-out-of-the glass aromatics.
It is not surprising that the wines of New Zealand have been the fastest-growing imported wines in the United States over the past few years. We can’t seem to get enough of their distinctive, bright, vivacious flavors.
Almost all of 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 a third of the country is protected national park, and Blue Lake in Nelson Lakes National Park has the clearest water in the world.
Most of New Zealand’s vineyards are concentrated in the South Island, with Marlborough being the most famous region. Marlborough’s diverse soils, ranging from 20,000 to 240 million years old, and cool climate moderated by Antarctic winds result in wines with a potpourri of fruity flavors.
The best introduction to New Zealand wine is through its signature variety, sauvignon blanc. Expect fresh, crisp, zingy wines with intense aromas of passionfruit, grapefruit, tropical fruit, and fresh herbs.
The “next big thing” for New Zealand is pinot noir. This cool-climate red variety excels in the chilly climes of the South Island, resulting in elegant, supple wines with red and dark fruit flavors layered with herbs and spice.
Few people realize that New Zealand is also world renown for Champagne-style bubbles. These bottle-fermented sparkling wines from the classic Champagne varieties of pinot noir and chardonnay are fresher and fruitier alternatives to Champagne itself, sharing the brioche, hazelnut complexity of the wines that inspire them.