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home > food & wine dictionary > New Zealand

Food and Wine Dictionary

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 New Zealand 

Although New Zealand had vineyards and produced wines as far back as 1819, it didn't have a reputation for making high-quality TABLE WINES until recently. It's essentially been a nation of beer drinkers, and the wine it did produce was usually FORTIFIED. Many of New Zealand's grapes were HYBRIDS but, starting in the mid-1960s, winemakers gradually began to experiment with European varieties like CABERNET SAUVIGNON. What resulted was a rapid expansion of vineyards producing VITIS VINIFERA wines, with New Zealand winemakers determining they had better success with white wines. Today MÜLLER-THURGAU is the most widely planted white grape, followed by CHARDONNAY. Other popular white varieties include SAUVIGNON BLANC, RIESLING, MUSCAT, CHENIN BLANC, and SÉMILLON. New Zealand's most highly regarded wines are their Chardonnays, Sauvignon Blancs, and sweet DESSERT WINES made from BOTRYTISED Riesling grapes. Cabernet Sauvignon is the top red variety, followed by PINOT NOIR, MERLOT, and PINOTAGE. Because of New Zealand's cool climate, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blends lean toward being slightly HERBACEOUS. Pinot Noir is gaining ground as producers discover it's doing better than expected in New Zealand, particularly when used for SPARKLING WINES. New Zealand's North Island-with growing areas in Auckland, Gisborne/Poverty Bay, Hawkes Bay, and the Wairarapa/Martinborough area-was the first of the islands to start producing wines. The South Island subsequently followed and now has growing areas in Marlborough, Caterbury, and Central Otago. New Zealand wineries include Babich, Cloudy Bay, Collards, Cooks, Hunters, Montana, Morton Estate, Nobilo Te Mata, Vidal, and Villa Maria.

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Material adapted from the The New Food Lover's Companion

© Copyright Barron's Educational Services, Inc. 1995 based on
THE FOOD LOVER'S COMPANION, 2nd edition, by Sharon Tyler Herbst.

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