Located on the east coast of New Zealand's North Island, Hawkes Bay is the country's oldest wine-growing region and its second largest. Though some chardonnay is produced, it is known above all for its red wines, in particular its rich, ripe, well-crafted merlots, syrahs, and cabernet sauvignons.
At the southern tip of New Zealand's North Island, Martinborough has a cool, dry climate particularly suited to pinot noir, though sauvignon blanc, riesling, chardonnay, and pinot gris do well, too. Some connoisseurs believe that Martinborough pinot noir, typically dark in color, rich, and fruity, but with an elegant finish, will become known as some of the best in the New World.
A key vineyard region located on the northeastern tip of New Zealand's South Island, Marlborough was the first of that country's wine areas to win worldwide fame. It is known most of all for sauvignon blanc, which often has a pronounced grassy or herbaceous character, but also produces credible chardonnay and quite good pinot noir.
The world's most southerly wine region, with a latitude of 45 degrees south, in the southern portion of New Zealand's South Island — and also the highest of the country's vineyard areas in altitude — Central Otago produces first-class pinot noirs, elegant, intensely flavored, and long-lived. Most of the other grapes grown here are white, including chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, and riesling.
Other New Zealand
There are more than 700 wineries in New Zealand, reaching from the far northwest to the southern portions of the country. Sauvignon blanc put New Zealand on the wine map, but pinot noir, the Bordeaux varietals, and chardonnay have become increasingly important. Most of the country's producers are small-scale operations, but larger concerns like Nobilo and Cloudy Bay are helping to spread the word about New Zealand wines around the world.