Blending a healthy respect for old world wine-making techniques with innovation has resulted in unique wines with purity of flavour across a diverse range of varietals. Wine is now New Zealand's largest horticultural export by value and is sold in over 80 countries.
Over 90 percent of vineyards are actively involved in the Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand initiative and a number of these have achieved carbon neutral status too.
New Zealand is a premier new-world wine country, producing award-winning wines. Grapes are grown in a diverse range of climates and soil types, producing an exciting array of styles. The temperate, maritime climate has a strong influence on the country's predominantly coastal vineyards. Vines are warmed by strong, clear sunlight during the day and cooled by sea breezes at night. The long, slow ripening period helps to retain the vibrant varietal flavours that makes New Zealand wine distinctive.
The New Zealand wine industry is technologically advanced, producing a wide variety of distinctive, clean, character-filled wines. Many of the country's winemakers and viticulturists have studied winemaking and worked in Australia, Europe or North America.
The food-friendly nature of New Zealand wines makes them a favourite with top chefs and discerning consumers. New Zealand cuisine draws inspiration from the traditional kitchens of France and Italy, as well as the exotic dishes of Asia and the Pacific Rim, and wine styles have evolved to complement this extensive menu.
The industry is one of New Zealand's fastest growing exports. In the the last 40 years, New Zealand's wine exports have increased from NZ$51 million in 1960 to NZ$1.4 billion in 2014. Exports to China have grown by 2,100 percent since 2006 and exports to France have grown 1,140 percent during the same period.
There are 10 main wine producing regions in New Zealand. The leading wine regions include:
- Wairarapa (Martinborough)
- Hawke's Bay
- Central Otago
New Zealand varietals
The grape varieties, soil structure and mini-climates in New Zealand's major wine-producing areas are varied, producing a broad spectrum of wines.
- Sauvignon blanc: New Zealand sauvignon blanc is acclaimed throughout the world as the definitive benchmark style for the varietal.
- Pinot noir: Plantings of pinot noir have increased by more than 80 percent since 2003. New Zealand has arguably become the second-best place in the world that makes pinot noir.
- Cabernet: Cabernet sauvignon and merlot are the most widely planted red grape varieties in Auckland, Northland, Waikato and Hawkes Bay with more than half of both varieties coming from Hawke's Bay. Fine examples from specialist producers are also to be found in other regions such as Wairarapa, Nelson and Marlborough.
- Chardonnay: Chardonnay is planted in every wine region and is now New Zealand's most widely planted variety.
- Aromatic grape varieties: New Zealand has a climate ideal for the production of aromatic wines and there is an increasing number of vibrant, world-class and regionally distinctive examples of New Zealand Riesling, gewürztraminer and pinot gris.
- Sparkling wine: Since the late 1970s, several New Zealand wineries have formed alliances with French champagne houses to assist in the development of their premium sparkling wines.
Sustainability in focus
New Zealand is a truly new world country with a high level of commitment to sustainable production. More than a decade ago, the industry launched a holistic vineyard programme, Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand (SWNZ), which has been adopted by growers from all the grape growing regions.
In 2007, a sustainability policy was announced, aimed at producing New Zealand wines under independently audited environmental programmes by 2012. The policy promotes participation in SWNZ and also recognises other environmental-based programmes such as certified organic and biodynamic production.
After the introduction of the policy, it is estimated that over 94 percent of the producing vineyard area is participating in SWNZ and a further seven percent is producing under certified organic programmes. Participation in organic production is anticipated to continue to increase and the industry expects to reach 20 percent by 2020.
New Zealand's relatively young wine industry is considered on par with some of the best in the world, mostly thanks to innovative New Zealand vineyard owners and winemakers taking a traditional art to a new level. The Marlborough Wine Research Centre works with universities and research facilities to provide scientific leadership and technological development for the wine industry.
The research centre is running New Zealand's first large-scale wine research project into the sauvignon blanc grape, which aims to help the industry understand the unique qualities of Marlborough sauvignon blanc and ensure that it maintains its international reputation.