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The New Zealand wine industry is one of the younger wine regions in the world, whose popularity grew immensely when Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc hit the world wine scene, quite unique in style when compared to the typical French Sancerre.
Wine is successfully cultivated on both the North and South islands from a latitude of 36 degrees in the North to 45 degrees for the most southerly wine region in the world, the South Island's Central Otago. The majority of regions are located in free-draining alluvial valleys except for Waiheke Island and Kawarau Gorge in Central Otago and benefit from the moderating effect of the maritime climate as no vineyard is more than 80 miles from the ocean. With plentiful sunshine hours and cool evening sea breezes, the grapes thrive.
Sauvignon Blanc is the major white variety people will think of when you mention New Zealand Whites, however fantastic Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer and less commonly Viognier, Chenin Blanc and Pinot Blanc. Pinot Noir is the most widely planted red variety in New Zealand although Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot (Bordeaux Blends), Syrah are also grown and in even smaller amounts, Tempranillo and Montepulcianos can too be found. Sparkling wines of very high standards are also made in New Zealand.
The key wine regions in New Zealand include Auckland, Canterbury, Central Otago, Gisborne, Hawke's Bay, Marlborough and Nelson.
Central Otago is the southernmost wine-growing region in the world, located at a latitude of 45 degrees south, on New Zealand’s south island. A spectacular landscape makes the region one of the most scenic wine regions if not in the world then certainly in New Zealand. Central to the region is the tourist destination of Queenstown, which is a great base to make wine trips from. Heavy mineral deposits in silt loams are typical for the soils in Central Otago, but are unlike any other region in New Zealand. The Otago region is the country's only ‘continental ’ wine-growing region. Pinot Noir is the flagship red varietal, which is very well suited to the region's large diurnal shifts (a large diurnal shift means a big difference between low and high temperatures) and also the region's long, cool and dry autumn. The Pinot Noirs coming out of the Otago region are most often fragrant, lush Pinot Noirs with silky textures and true fruit intensity. Aromatic whites also thrive, in particular Riesling where anything from bone-dry to very sweet can be made. Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris and lesser amounts of Chardonnay is also made to a very high quality. Central Otago is in Jancis Robinson’s top five New World wine-producing regions.
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