‘Grapes are the most expressive agricultural product of a piece of land.’
Enough knowledge about our place to be dangerous
New Zealand is famous for the purity of its environment – with good reason. The southern vines breathe the purest air in the world. The sunny, bright maritime environment – no vine is more than 70km from the sea - is a little bit of nirvana for a plant: geographic isolation, a windy environment, unpolluted sky, free of dust and smog, purity of light, without baking temperatures. For viticulture, this means diversity - the opportunity to manage vines according to the desired wine style.
Tropical fish at one end, penguins at the other – New Zealand is a world away (2000 kms to the nearest neighbour) from the viticulture concerns of close habitation with the big continents.
A couple of long skinny islands (distance London to the Straits of Gibraltar), Aotearoa, New Zealand (Aotearoa is the Maori word for New Zealand, translated it means ‘land of the long white cloud') lies at latitude 35-47, surrounded by sub-tropical sea to the north and sub-Antarctic sea to the south.
The last place in the world to be settled – around 700 years ago – this was, for centuries, an isolated land of birds. Many - such as the kiwi, the national symbol – evolved without the power of flight due to the lack of predators. The flightless Moa grew to 12 feet (3.6 metres), yet was hunted by the vast Haast eagle, perhaps the largest flying predator since the dinosaurs.
Settled by the Scots, rather than the Spanish, Portuguese, Greeks, Germans or French – it was grain and not the grape that predominated in New Zealand until the early 20th century.
A utopia at the end of the world
Along the east coast of New Zealand lie some of the world’s most naturally gifted wine growing areas. Although diverse in character, the east coast regions, protected by mountains, are drier and sunnier than the rest of the country. The mountain chain that forms the backbone of the South Island - the Southern Alps - covers more land area than the French Alps, Italian Alps and Swiss Alps combined (these mountains were the training ground for a young Sir Edmund Hillary).
'The style of wines from New Zealand are what our family like to drink.'
From Napa to Champagne to Bordeaux…the 20 minute drive phenomena
Within certain areas of the Hawke's Bay region of the North Island the climate is similar to Bordeaux, yet less than twenty minutes away it’s as cool as Champagne. In Marlborough, at the top of the South Island, the warmest vineyard areas are almost as warm as Bordeaux yet the coolest areas as cool as Alsace. Central Otago has vineyard areas as warm as Burgundy and others that are cooler than Champagne, all within a twenty minute drive.
These wines taste of something you can’t create anywhere else.
‘There’s no other wine producing nation that’s structured like New Zealand…where almost every vine is touched by the tempering influence of the sea; with the United Nations of soils in their native state; and a climatic diversity ranging from the Sub Tropics to close to the Antarctic – both within and between regions. All this contributes to the diversity, complexity, amazing aromatics and vitality that New Zealand fine wines are becoming recognised for.’
~ Steve Smith MW
Greater purity and a lovely freshness
Vines are easier to manage in regions that are slightly cool. Vines grown under good humidity are less stressed and work more efficiently; grapes retain great natural acidity, have effusive aromas that are often complex in their spectrum. Because there is no overheating issues, there is not a concern about sunburn on fruit, nor an issue with excessive alcohols. The wines taste fresher. They have greater purity. With reds, the UV light - so important for developing colour and flavour intensity - adds dark vitality. The wines are not heavy.
Fabulous can come from anywhere
‘New Zealand, always in search of elegance rather than noise, insists on calling our Syrah-based red ‘Syrah’ (rather than Shiraz). However, it is not the name that has our Trans Tasman cousins rattled, but the effortless class.’
~ Keith Stewart