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Regional Specialties l What to Eat l Wine



The great white grape of Burgundy has adapted well to New Zealand's ambience. The grape gives out a citric, melon-like flavor, but many winemakers ferment and age it in barrels and put at least a percentage of each batch through a malolactic fermentation to transform its sharp malic acids to softer lactic acids. This results in spicy wine with a hint of vanilla.

Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignons are New Zealand's biggest hits. It is well achieved in many overseas competitions because it stands out in any crowd. Those that come from the Marlborough region is fiercely aromatic, while the Hawke's Bay examples are less aromatic but possesses a tropical fruit taste that often gives them more depth on the palate.


This super-spicy bouquet redolent of lychees and cloves is the most unique grape variety of all. Gisborne produces many of the best grapes but Dry River's Neil McCallum makes an equally good wine at his Marlborough winery. As Gewüztraminer suffers from a bitter finish when it is fermented out to dryness, many winemakers add a touch of residual sugar for a sweeter end.


Sales of Riesling were never as good as it is today. The gentle grape yields a floral, lightly scented bouquet and fruity taste. It can be made bone dry, but often has a touch of sweetness. It is also used to create super-sweet dessert wines.

Chenin Blanc

Typically, this grape variety is mixed with other varieties because its naturally high acidity adds zing to wines that might otherwise suffer from excess flab. It is a wine rich with flavors and the sort of complexity normally found in top Chardonnay.


A cross between Riesling and Sylvaner, this grape makes excellent party wine that is slightly sweet.

Cabernet Sauvignon

Good Cabernets come mainly from Hawke's Bay and Waiheke Island, but a few can be found in West Auckland and Nelson. Many local examples are combined with Merlot and Cabernet Franc.


Previously, Merlots were used to complement the local Cabernet Sauvignon, but now more winemakers are bottling them as a whole. A Merlot ripens three weeks earlier than Cabernets, so it is a preferred choice for regions that experiences autumn rain. The grape produces a leather/coffee/tobacco taste, often likened to an old British gentleman's club.


Found only in New Zealand and South Africa, the Pinotage has traditionally made light, vaguely peppery reds of not great interest. However, some winemakers have recently rediscovered it and are getting better results.

Pinot Noir

This grape of Burgundy is difficult to grow and has become the ultimate challenge for a few local winemakers. It adapts well in the Wairarapa and Central Otago regions, but good examples occasionally appear from Marlborough and Hawke's Bay. The taste is a mix of strawberries, cherries or mushrooms, but it can also develop 'barnyard' aromas that some people find off-putting.

Méthode Champenoise

The most time-consuming wine to make is the Méthode Champenoise, which is sparkling wine made Champagne style. It is believed that this wine will be the next big export of New Zealand. Most are made from Marlborough grapes, and this province has been chosen for sparkling wine production by two Champagne houses, Deutz and Moët & Chandon.

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