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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.
When most people think of New Zealand wine, the first thing that comes to mind will be Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. This one variety more than any other helped springboard New Zealand onto the world-wine scene.
The region is located on the northern end of the south island, nestled around the town of Blenheim, and for many years was a sheep region. It was Montana wines, who in 1973 planted the first vines in the region “too far south to grow good wine.” At the time the region was the southernmost region in the country, but nowadays Central Otago takes south to a whole new level.
Plenty of sunshine hours, relatively low rainfall and cool temperatures provide the perfect conditions for growing the world-class Sauvignon Blanc for the region is renowned for. Other whites grown include Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer and Sparkling wines. Pinot Noir dominates the red varieties grown, though is typically lighter-bodied than Central Otago or Martinborough Pinots.
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