Better known by the tremendous success of its white wines, particularly Marlborough’s Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand’s red wines are mostly off the radar for the global market, with the visible exception of Pinot Noir. The “heart break grape” has made its home in Martinborough, at the southern tip of North Island, and in Otago, in the southern end of South Island.
Central Otago has the only true continental climate in the country. Its soils are also different, with heavy deposits of mica, schist and silt loams. Pinot Noir wines from this region have received accolades due to their purity of fruit, intensity and vibrancy.
Martinborough, in the Wairarapa region, also offers excellent Pinot Noir. Climatically is closer to Marlborough, maritime, cool and with less extremes of daily and seasonal temperatures. The top Pinot Noirs produced there exhibit richness and opulence.
Although little known, New Zealand also produces high quality Bordeaux and Rhone style blends, mostly in Waiheke Island and Hawke’s Bay. The former is located in the Hauraki Gulf off Auckland. Its hilly terrain produces Bordeaux blends that have good reputation, though production is rather small.
Hawke’s Bay, on the eastern central coast of North Island, is the nation’s capital when it comes to Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah. The Bordeaux blends produced there show finesse and restrain. Syrah is the new buzz, yielding wines that are fresh, long and peppery, reminiscent of the northern Rhone reds.