New Zealand Red Wine
Blended Red Wine
New Zealand red wines are typically made from a blend of varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, or Pinot Noir. Red wine grape planting began in the 1960’s by McWilliams and later in the 1980’s by Te Mata Estate. The production of wines started with a concentration on Cabernet Sauvignon but as viticultural techniques were improved and tailored to New Zealand’s maritime climate, a variety of wines were able to be produced from Merlot style grapes to Bordeaux-style grapes. Blended red wines are modified by the winemakers with special blending varietals, a more complex process compared to producing a single varietal wine. Red wine blends and Bordeaux blends come from regions and sub-regions of New Zealand that are relatively the hottest and driest. The reason for the blending of grapes is to add more density to the flavour and texture of a wine. Plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Syrah now account for 2,496 hectares. Generally, New Zealand red wines tend to be forward and early maturing, fruit-driven with restrained oak
Pair your blended red wine or bordeaux with a heart grilled lamb or roast beef.
The Cabernet Sauvignon early successes launched the excitement for the wine industry with increasing investment into more hectares planted, rising land prices, and greater local interest and pride in wine. Although these early successes led to a growth of wine economy in New Zealand, Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the least produced grape variety today, but that doesn’t make it any less of a fantastic selection to pair with your evening. The grape variety is grown in the warmer sub-tropical wine regions such as Northland, Aukland, Bay of Plenty, and Hawkes Bay. Ready for drinking at 3 to 5 years, Cabernet Sauvignon is produced in more forward softer styles and commonly blended with Merlot to create a more tranquil drinking wine.
Cabernet Sauvignon is a dark fruity flavor that tastes great paired with beef and lamb dishes.
New Zealand Merlot is now recognized as a premium variety, but was once just mainly grown as a blending variety with Cabernet Sauvignon in the mid-1800s. New Zealand’s cool climate and lengthy ripening season allows Merlot to slowly grow and concentrate its flavours of softness, fruity richness and plumpness. Around 75% of NZ Merlot is grown in the North Island wine regions of Aukland, Northland, Gisborne, and Hawkes Bay.
The earlier-maturing and lively flavors of Merlot are best paired with spaghetti and meatballs, spicy rice dishes, and classic grilled beef and lamb dishes.
The Canterbury region of New Zealand has seen the development of Pinot Noir as the dominant red variety with producers including Waipara Hills, Pegasus Bay, Waipara Springs, Muddy Water, Greystone, Omihi Hills and Black Estate. Recently, the Pinot Noir grape variety has seen much success in the more southern region of New Zealand accompanied by mountain ranges which increases the temperature variations, making it an unusual climate but has gotten the Pinot Noir wines international attention and awards. The Central Otago Pinot Noir wines have been featured in Cuisine magazine (issue 119) voted on as one of the top ten wines from New Zealand in a blind taste test, making it one of the most sought-after New Zealand varieties.
Pinot Noir has the essence and flavours of sweet strawberries, raspberries, as it develops with age the flavors ferment into complex earthy and mushroom characteristics.
The popular Pinot Noir is best paired with harissa marinated pork ribs, yellow fin tuna steak, or spicy duck dishes.
A small number of wineries are producing high standard Cabernet Franc. Grown mainly in Hawkes Bay and Aukland, Cabernet Franc is one of the more important red wine varieties. It is most often blended with cabernet sauvignon or merlot due to its sweet finish. On its own Cabernet Franc has a fruity, light to medium taste with low tannin.
Cabernet Franc is versatile, being able to be paired with a wide variety of foods such as Chicken Tomato Curry, Turkey with Cranberry, Feta Ravioli, and Egglpant Black Lentil dishes.
Montepulciano is a red wine grape variety originating in Italy but has struck attention from wine lovers internationally. At the recent Air New Zealand Wine Awards, a wine competition judged by local and international judges, New Zealand winemakers took home Gold and Silver medals for multiple Italian varietals. One of the italian wines included Montepulciano with it’s medium-bodied, savory flavors of herbs, spice, and dark chocolate. Critics are saying that the kiwis are possibly making Italian wines better than the Italians, hitting their stride with wine.
The flavouring of Montepulciano is best enjoyed with beetroot, apple and watercress salads, as as well as Duck with roasted almond crisps.
Rosé wines are produced mostly from a blend of red and white grape varietals such as Pinot Noir, Syrah, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet, Sauvignon, Tempranillo and Sangiovese. The coloring of Rosé wine is dependent upon how long the red grape skins have been in contact with the grape juice. Colors can range from a lighter orangey-pink to a vivid hot pink. Rosé Wine can be produced in a sweet, off-dry or bone dry style featuring flavours of raspberry, strawberry, cherry, and some citrus watermelon tang.
Rosé is great with hummus and olive appetizers, quiches, and seafood dishes.
Sangiovese wine is derived from a dark-berried vine originating from Italy. It is a thin-skinned grape that tends to linger longer on the vine, taking its time to mature giving it a full-bodied structure with a medium-soft to firm tannin. Sangiovese is cherished for its high acid, firm tannins and balanced nature. They are known for its flavours of dark cherries, plums, strawberries, cinnamon and vanilla with some varieties possessing quality of tomato leaf and dried herbs.
Sangiovese pairs with well-aged cheeses, lasagna, roasted bass and chives chicken, and Kabobs with seasoned steak pepper and potato.
Tempranillo is a Spain and Portugal originated thick-skinned variety wine. Temperanillo means “little early one,” given by the grape growers in Spain by the habit of the vine to ripen early. Younger styles from cooler climates produce a flavour compliments of strawberry, blackcurrant, and cherry. Ageing styles from warmer climates yield a detectable prune, chocolate, and tobacco flavors.
Termperanillo can be paired with a number of various flavours such as brazilian pork, crumbed roasted eggplant, tomato basil soups, and fried blood sausage with rice.
New Zealand Syrah is predominantly grown in the Hawkes Bay wine region and was one of the first varieties planted and produced in New Zealand, dating back to the mid 1800s. The Hawkes Bay region is rapidly developing a reputation for their high quality of Syrah with its complex, spicy, and supple flavours. It is crammed full of plum and savoury black pepper flavours thanks to its earthly late-ripening tendencies.
Syrah is deliciously complimented with curried eggplant, hearty stews, spicy lamb meatballs, sweet potato mash.
New Zealand’s treasured and most notably “world’s best Sauvignon blanc” put Marlborough on the international wine map. Wine critics have raved and are still raving about this white wine often called “arguably the best in the world.” Sauvignon Blanc originates from western France and is now New Zealand’s most planted variety. Marlborough’s Sauvignon Blanc’s are distinguishable for their pungent, grassy green flavours that the international wine community associate with the New Zealand style. Critics say “no other region in the world can match Marlborough, the northeastern corner of New Zealand’s South Island, which seems to be the best place in the world to grow Sauvignon Blanc grapes.”
“New Zealand Sauvignon blanc is like a child who inherits the best of both parents—exotic aromas found in certain Sauvignon blancs from the New World and the pungency and limey acidity of an Old World Sauvignon blanc like Sancerre from the Loire Valley” proclaims Oldman, a wine judge. Sauvignon Blanc flavours and aromas range from blackcurrant lead, asparagus, and green apples, to gooseberries, nectarine, and passionfruit.
New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is scrumptious paired with Thai green curry, grilled fish, salads with goat cheese, asparagus, avocado, or red grilled peppers, and asian style seafood dishes.
New Zealand’s Chardonnay is the third most widely planted and picked grape variety. This full-bodied white wine is grown throughout New Zealand’s wine regions demonstrating the wide range of unique diversity in the flavours of NZ Chardonnay. Northland, Auckland, Bay of Plenty, and Gisborne, the warmer wine regions produce a fruit driven Chardonnay with a soft ripe. Hawkes Bay and Wairarapa produce a richer fruit flavor with more acidity and Chardonnays from Nelson and Marlborough (South Island) are more lemony in flavor. The versatility of Chardonnay is displayed in its palate by its crisp flavours ranging from pitiless apples, lemon, to peaches and apricots.
A tasty Chardonnay is complimented well by barbecued garlic shrimps, butternut squash risotto, japanese pork belly, and roasted chicken or turkey.
The Gruner Veltliner is a wine with a diverse taste in between a Gewurztraminer and a Chardonnay. The grape variety is relatively new to New Zealand with the first vines planted in Gisborne during the early 2000s. It is a cool climate food friendly wine originating from Eastern Europe. It has since then spread to being planted in the southerly wine regions of Marlborough, Nelson, Waipara, Canterbury and Central Otago. Gruner Veltliner is a dry white wine with various notes of green pepper, lime, lentil, and celery.
Gruner Veltliner is best paired with tastes of asian to thai food, seafood, as well as bitter greens and salads.
The Gewurztraminer wine variety is most commonly grown in the North Island in the Gisborne wine region. It is known for its aromatic lychee, rose petal, and spice flavours. Ginger and cinnamon gives Gewurztraminer gives it an intensely exciting character. The german name given to the wine literally means “Spice Traminer” and is originally from France.
A delicious glass of Gewurztraminer pairs well with the spice of asian cuisine as well as Munster cheese dishes and fleshy, fatty wild game.
Pinot Gris is the fourth most planted variety in New Zealand being produced in the Marlborough, Central Otago, and Hawkes Bay wine regions. It is also the third most popular wine among wine drinkers with its refreshing tones of pear and apple flavours. The winemaking process of Pinot Gris focuses on building texture and complexity with the warmer New Zealand wine regions producing a ripe oily style while cooler climates produce a tighter Pinot with a greater structure.
This zesty wine is refreshing paired with fresh vegetables, raw fish, seared scallops, and lighter meals.
Riesling is most notably grown in the South Island wine regions such as Nelson, Marlborough, Waipara Valley, and Central Otago. The cool southerly climate and low humidity is why 85% of Riesling is harvested in these regions. It is the fourth most popular grape variety harvested in New Zealand. Flavours of Riesling can range from bone dry to lushly sweet with undertones of lime, lemon and spice to crisp apple and citrus.
Riesling is complimented well with garlic chicken, quiche lorraine, beef curry, and jalapeno dishes.
Sparkling White Wine
Known for its elegance and complex taste, Sparkling White Wine is processed much like the creation of Champagne. The northern tip of the South Island produces a majority of the New Zealand’s Sparkling White Wine, Marlborough has attracted investments from both Champagne producers and champanois wine-makers. The excellent quality of Sparkling White Wine is displayed by its balance of nutty, biscuit flavours with fresh acidity and fruit.
Sparkling White Wine can be best enjoyed with caviar, smoked salmon, potpies, cheesesm and sausages. It is a great selection for a dinner party.
Viognier wine is a rather difficult grape varietal to grow due to its low acidity levels and its requirement of sunshine to ripen properly. Its vine originates from the Rhone Valley of France and is relatively new to New Zealand. The vine is grown primarily in Hawkes Bay and Gisborne wine regions. Viognier is enjoyed as a textural white wine with strong stone-fruit flavours of peaches, apricots, and pears. Along with a crisp flavour, Viognier is visually beautiful with its golden colouring and intended to consume at an earlier ripe age.
Refreshing Viognier is best paired with cashew curries, sweet potato dishes, pork dumplings, and cheesecake dessert.
What’s Special About
New Zealand Wine?
New Zealand wine, although fairly new to the wine industry, with vines being on the island for about 150 years, have really launched attention from the wine-drinker and wine-critic audience alike for the last 15 years. New Zealand’s wine industry has exploded, deserving hit status thanks to the success of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and more.
The wine industry of New Zealand is noted for being a ‘new world’ wine region. It combines characteristics from Old World wines from destinations such as France, Italy, Germany, and Spain with new world fresh techniques such as having the grape variety front and center advertised on the bottle rather than the region. New Zealand has looser rules when it comes to what grape varieties they can grow and in what regions they can grow them at. When you buy a bottle of wine from New Zealand you can count on about 85% of the wine being produced in the year and grape variety on the label. New Zealand is also producing about 95% of their wines with new screwcaps, or Stelvin closures, as opposed to the Old World cork sealers. Cork flavors of wet cardboard and musty basement are often transferred to wine which is why New Zealand and Australia practice the method of screwcaps to ensure that wine-makers are not pouring their hard work down the drain.
New Zealand wine regions pride themselves in getting lots of sunshine while also having a heavy ocean influence and very cool nights present to develop their wine flavors. Their climate offers the ripe tropical fruit balanced by lots of refreshing acidity, which New Zealand Kiwis embrace their talented balance that the climate allows them to produce. New Zealand resides in the southern hemisphere where there harvest occurs six months earlier than it happens in vineyards in, for example California. If you’re shopping in September, you may notice that they’re already selling this year’s wines.
Critics have been raving about New Zealand’s wines, quoting a wine critic, “The consistently high quality of Italian varietals in New Zealand today is really a reflection on the nature of Kiwi winemakers—their determination to understand new varieties and their relationship with the land, their hard work, and their ability to innovate,” says Walker. “It took a long time to see the fruits of their labor, and I feel that the best is really yet to come.”