New Zealand, the new world's elite
This island at the end of the world, located in the southeast of Australia, has managed to make a good name for itself despite the small size of its vineyards. Anyone who has tasted a Sauvignon Blanc or a Pinot Noir from this country has been able to appreciate the qualities of freshness and intensity of these wines with their distinct personality. It took a long time for this success to take shape, because although the first vines were planted in 1819, it took two hundred years of trial and error before the country found its way in the wine industry. If the sometimes cool and, locally, humid climate was an obstacle for a long time, so was a government policy of semi-prohibition. Today, thanks to a better mastery of viticultural techniques, to an adapted grape variety, and to a dynamism that has driven the whole country, New Zealand has managed to turn its climatic constraints into an asset to offer wines whose aromatic freshness and technical requirements are part of the deal.
The country is 1200 kilometers long from north to south and is essentially made up of two islands: North Island and South Island. In the North the climate is warmer and more humid, while in the South the temperatures become particularly cool at the southern tip. The most famous regions, such as Marlborough, Hawkes Bay or Wairarapa, enjoy temperate conditions with generous sunshine combined with cool night temperatures and reasonable humidity. The proximity of the oceans and mountains is a source of a great deal of meso-climatic variation. These conditions provide a potential that has long remained untapped due to inadequate grape varieties. Hybrid varieties, such as Muller-Thurgau, are in danger of extinction. The emblematic grape variety of New Zealand has become sauvignon blanc, which covers more than a third of the vineyard. The country owes its fame to its particularly aromatic and lively wines, of remarkable intensity, most often aged in vats. The Chardonnays can also reach a high level of finesse, sometimes withstanding aging in barrels. In red wines, the most notable fact is the spectacular rise of pinot noir. In ten years, its surface area has been multiplied by 10. The world has become fond of these lively, bright and very fruity pinot noirs. Merlot is the second most popular red grape variety, far ahead of Cabernet Sauvignon which is struggling to ripen in most New Zealand vineyards. In white, there are also some very nice Rieslings and rare but spectacular Gewürztraminers.