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New Zealand is an island nation with two main islands; North Island and South Island. The names are indicative of the primary geographical orientation which runs from 34 degrees latitude at the top of the North Island to 47 degrees at the bottom of the South Island. In the United States, this would be the equivalent of South Carolina to the top of Maine or Los Angeles, CA to Seattle, WA.
The population is around 3 ½ million. Nearly one person in three lives in the Auckland vicinity and the North Island has about three fourths of the total population.
There are about 400 licensed wineries in New Zealand and they cover the spectrum from conglomerate to university to inactive. There are about a dozen wine producing areas scattered over both islands. The two most prominent areas are Marlborough on the South Island and Hawke's Bay on the North Island. The major producers will generally have vineyards in both areas, especially to be able to put those designations on the label.
New Zealeand has gained prominence in the world wine market in the past decade with its Sauvignon Blanc. The Kiwis have combined ideal conditions of soil and climate with their production style and have become the world standard for the variety. In addition to Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand producers are also doing well with the other cool weather white varietals: Chardonnay, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and Pinot Gris. The Kiwis are judicious in their use of oak and malo-lactic fermentation so expect bright, balanced fruit instead of a butterball style.
Pinot Noir is becoming the New Zealand's second great varietal. Several regions have the right conditions for quality Pinot grapes and the winemakers are developing the skills to win awards on the world scene. Warm weather reds are diffcult due to a lack of the ideal conditions of heat and dryness in combination. Cabernet and Merlot are produced.
Click on the links on the left for information on New Zealand's wine regions and their wineries.
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