New Zealand is world famous for producing delicious wines. What’s remarkable about our small country’s wine industry is the wide range of wines available. From light and aromatic whites to rich and robust reds, you can find a locally made wine that matches your palette and preferred flavour profile.
Even within each wine variety, New Zealand’s different regions, soil types and climates produce a stunning array of flavours. For example, a New Zealand made Sauvignon Blanc can be aromatic with light flavours of crisp green apple, all the way through to a more mouth-filling flavour of rich pineapple and passionfruit.
Want to know more, or not sure where to start? Talk to an expert in your local New World Wine department, and they will be happy to help you make a stand-out selection.
Primarily we produce wines in New Zealand that are a reflection of the varietal character and for the most part are one variety dominant, for example Chardonnay. Within a variety there can be a huge range of variation on aromas and flavours created by the different regions, soil types and climates. Sauvignon Blanc can vary from the crisp green herbal though to the more mouth filling richer flavours of pineapple and passionfruit with huge range in between.
There are huge variations and some white wines taste sweeter than others because even though they have the same sugar level, the fruit reminds us of sweet flavours. For example, Sauvignon Blanc often reminds us of flavours of fresh herbs and red capsicum, while Pinot Gris will remind us of ripe fresh pear. Both wines will be as sweet as each other in the amounts of sugar they have, but the Pinot Gris will appear to have a sweeter flavour.
Dry white wines
By definition, a dry white wine is a wine that’s not sweet. It’s all to do with the fermentation process and removing the residual sugars. But, the absence of sweetness does not mean the absence of fruit. Choosing a dry white wine means you’ll taste bold fruit flavours, only without the sugary sweetness. Dry white wine varieties include:
The pale lemon or gold colours of Chardonnay are often picked up from the oak barrels it's often aged in. The oak barrel aging of Chardonnay can add a buttery flavour and texture to the wine. You’ll also flavours of vanilla, with wooden or nutty aromas.
While Riesling is most commonly known as a sweeter wine variety, you can also find depth of flavour here too. For example, Marlborough Rieslings tend to be more full-bodied and dry, with just a hint of sweetness.
Most commonly found in Spain and Portugal, most New Zealand varieties of Albariño are found in the Gisborne and Hawkes Bay regions. Albariño is famous for classic peach and citrus fruits with hints of zest and just a touch of saltiness or minerality.
A rare wine varietal that was almost extinct 50 years ago, but is starting to make a return. Favouring cooler climates, Arneis is elegantly fresh but aromatic in nature. Classic flavours include subtle pear, stonefruit and sometimes almond.
This Austrian wine varietal (pronounced GREW-ner Velt-LEEN-er) has made itself at home in the comparable climate of Central Otago. Related to the much sweeter Gewürztraminer, this more restrained wine is characterised by pear, citrus, dill and white pepper.
Not an incredibly popular wine varietal in New Zealand. Like Chardonnay, Semillon is a versatile variety that likes oak fermentation and maturation. Flavours can range from lemon and lime citrus to spicy caramel, honey and vanilla. Most of New Zealand’s Semillon goes into blends, where it adds extra depth to white wines.
This dry white wine (pronounced Vee-on-yay) is known all over the world for its floral bouquet. That’s a fancy way of saying it smells strongly of peach and apricot, and it is a delicious alternative to Chardonnay.
Medium white wines
These wines are slightly sweet when you first taste them and will leave a rich, slightly sweet aftertaste. These wines often have “medium” or “off dry” on the label. Varieties include:
In addition to looking for “medium” or “off dry” on the label, Rieslings produced in Marlborough and Canterbury tend to be ‘drier’ than counterparts produced in warmer climates. A Medium Riesling is crisp, and full of lemon and lime citrus, and green apple flavours.
Medium Pinot Gris
New Zealand’s cooler climate creates a beautiful style of Pinot Gris, with almost a waxy textured mouthfeel. Signature flavours of Pinot Gris include a balanced acidity with notes of apple, pear, honeysuckle, spice and bread.
New Zealand varieties of Gewürztraminer are extremely fragrant, with aromas of rose petals, lychee, cinnamon and ginger. After your first sip, look for ripe stone fruit, sweet citrus and quince notes.
Sweet white wines
These wines are very sweet and luscious and will often have on the label “Noble”, “Late Harvest”, “Late Pick” and “Botrytis”. These terms tell you a little about how the wine is made. Late harvesting is where the grapes are left to over-ripen and shrivel slightly on the vine, which concentrates the sugar level.
New Zealand winemakers can allow the fungus Botrytis Cinerea, also known as Noble Rot to infest the grape bunches. This fungus shrivels the grapes, reducing the water content and intensifying the sugar concentration.
As a side effect, the Noble Rot also introduces flavours of ginger and honey, making it common in the production of dessert wines.
Within Riesling you can find a variety of aromas, from crisp apple and rose blossom, to bolder, citrus and stone fruit flavours like peach or lemon and lime. Today’s delicate flavours and tempered sweetness make Riesling the perfect summer wine.
Sweet Pinot Gris
While Pinot Gris shares some of Riesling’s sweetness, it has much less acidity and is more likely to be barrel aged. That wood contact lends Pinot Gris a more waxy mouthfeel, plus flavours of bread and honeysuckle.
If you like Riesling there is a good chance you’ll also be a fan of Gewürztraminer. What sets Gewürztraminer apart is a distinctive spicy cinnamon-like flavour and sometimes a touch of bitterness. Gewürztraminer also has a unique aroma of lychee and rose petals.
Moscato is almost exclusively a dessert wine, very fruity, but with a signature grapefruit aroma. Moscato tends not to be very acidic, making it popular with fans of tropical fruit flavours like ripe pear, orange blossom, lemonade and honeysuckle.
Crisp white wines
Fruity white wines
While sometimes acidic Sauvignon Blanc leans towards tropical fruits like l passionfruit, guava, and hints of fresh grass. The cooler growing conditions in the South Island promote stronger, more vibrant fruit flavours.
For a more light-bodied, fruitier Chardonnay, look for one produced in a cooler climate like Marlborough or Central Otago.
The warmer climates of Nelson make Riesling’s fruity flavours explode. Plenty of ripe stone fruit and citrus blossom.
You may be surprised to learn that the juice from many red grapes is actually clear. The red colours you find in your wine bottle can come from leaving the pressed grape juice in contact with the grape skins.
Red wine is home to a variety of flavours, ranging from delicate to the incredibly rich and robust. In addition to the different flavours, red wines also contain a compound called tannin. Tannin is the product that provides the astringent character in black tea and will make the wine 'taste' bigger and fuller in your mouth.
Dry red wines
Cabernet Sauvignon tends to be a more acidic wine, and quite high in tannins, which means it’s ideal for putting away and aging. You may find a mix of flavours like blackcurrant, black cherry and black olive.
Bottled on it’s own or combined in a blend, Merlot is a popular dry red wine varietal in New Zealand. Merlot is commonly grown in the Hawke’s Bay, Auckland and Marlborough where many producers try to maintain it’s natural acidity with red fruit flavours and leafy aromas.
Slightly lighter than Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc is a varietal most commonly grown for blending. It’s contribution to wine is a peppery aroma that can also include raspberry, capsicum and violet.
Sweet red wines
The lighter, pink colour of Rosé is usually because the grape juice has had less contact with the rich, red grape skins. Rosé wine can be made using almost any red wine grapes, but the way Rosé is produced preserves more of the sweetness and freshness of the wine.
This German red wine variety is very popular in Europe but not commonly found in New Zealand. This sweeter red wine is known for aromas of cherries, fresh blackberries and spiced herbs.
A unique grape hybrid with an interesting flavour. Black Muscat can offer you toffee apple, candy floss, cinnamon and rose petal.
Full bodied red wines
These wines are rich and have masses of flavour. Varieties include:
One of the most intensely flavoured, as well as world’s most popular wines. Almost 90% of New Zealand’s Cabernet Sauvignon is produced in Hawke’s Bay and Auckland.
Cabernet Franc Merlot
A blended Bordeaux style wine with a bold body and flavour. The Merlot grapes bring in flavours of mulberries, plum and dark berries. The Cabernet Franc adds largely to the aroma, usually with herbal notes or a touch of green capsicum.
Shiraz and Syrah
More commonly produced in warmer regions like Auckland, Northland and Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand’s Shiraz and Syrah is well known for its spicy flavours. Think cracked black pepper over rich plums and dark stone fruits.
Most commonly produced in Australia, Durif is also known as ‘Petite Syrah.’ This grape was created as the result of cross pollination, and has many of the flavours and characteristics you’d find in Syrah.
Lighter bodied red wines
These wines are softer and are often less intense to taste. Varieties include:
Pinot Noir grapes favour the South Island, and even then, different soils means you’ll find a range of flavours. Common to all New Zealand Pinot Noir’s is a textural mouthfeel and intense fruit-driven flavours.
Another Italian wine varietal making a comfortable home in New Zealand. You’ll find rich cherry and plum, along with interesting savoury and spicy notes.
This robust Spanish wine variety is renowned for its earthy tones, a chewy texture, and rich spiced fruit flavours.
Difficult to find in New Zealand as it’s only made by a tiny number of producers, but it’s worth the hunt. You’ll be rewarded with a juicy, bright wine packed with blueberry, raspberry and cherry flavours.
Another quite tannic wine variety, making Montepulciano an ideal pairing with lamb or venison. Think dried herbs, with a hit of sour cherry and plum along with some red berries.
Sparkling wines are made throughout the world and the most famous are from the Champagne region in France. Of course, to be called ‘Champagne,’ the sparkling wine must be produced in that popular French region. As a result, you can find a number of very enjoyable sparkling wines without the premium 'Champagne' brand.
This is another location based name, from the Prosecco region of Italy. Prosecco tends to be one of the more sweeter sparkling wines, and it’s larger bubbles make it a popular addition to cocktails.
This German variety of sparkling wine is known for low-sweetness and low-alcohol. It contains very fruity flavours like apples and pears and is balanced with a natural acidity.
Of course, Rosé can be a still wine, but it’s a crowd pleaser in it’s sparkling, bubbly form. New Zealand produces a number of delicious sparkling Rosé’s, with popular flavours including strawberry, rose petal and honeydew.
Of course, almost any wine can be made bubbly with a little carbonation. The term ‘Brut’ refers to the style of wine production rather than the type of grape used. Brut is the most popular form of sparkling wine because it’s dry with just a hint of sweetness.
Sec and Demi-Sec
Like Brut, Sec and Demi-Sec are labels commonly found on sparkling wine bottles to tell you how sweet or dry the wine is. Sec and Demi-Sec sparkling wines are sweeter than their Brut cousins, and are often drunk with dessert.
How to choose wine
In New Zealand we are simply spoiled for choice with the range of incredible, locally produced wine on offer. Both the varieties of wine grown here, and the sheer number of Kiwi vineyards available mean you have a number of starting points for finding a great wine for any occasion.
How much does good wine cost?
With wine you tend to get what you pay for. The difference in quality between a $5 bottle of wine and a bottle over $30 is usually quite significant. Fortunately, there are very good wines available for under $25.
In Europe and the United States, there is huge production of very cheap ordinary wine. Whereas in New Zealand we produce, by world standards, tiny volumes of wine. Our focus is very much on quality over quantity.
By looking for labels from New Zealand wineries, you’re supporting local and virtually guaranteed to choose a delicious, quality wine.
Choosing an organic wine
Did you know you can pick up a delicious bottle of wine and help protect our environment?
New Zealand is now at the forefront of a growing worldwide trend establishing sustainable winegrowing practices. At its core, sustainable winemaking is focussed on looking after our land, and reducing the environmental impact of synthetic chemicals.
There are many actions wineries can take to become more sustainable. Look for these logos on the back of a wine bottle.
CarboNZeroTo keep making wine, we need a healthy planet. CarboNZero is an internationally recognised scheme that helps all New Zealand businesses, including wineries, to lower their carbon emissions. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is good for the environment and good for business, as it also looks at ways to manage energy and water usage, reduce waste and increase biodiversity.
BioGroMany winemakers have a commitment to grow and produce wine sustainably. Featuring the BioGro label proves your wine is certifiably organic, and has met their rigorous standards around not using genetically modified products or synthetic pesticides.
Use awards to find good wine
This is where using medals and awards that wines have received, helps you make the best decision. The New World Wine Awards is the only New Zealand wine competition where wines must retail under $25.
By limiting entry to wines under $25, our goal is to help you choose a delicious wine that you can enjoy with family and friends.
With the New World Wine Awards, our panel of world-class judges taste each wine ‘blind.’ They have no idea who has produced the wine they’re tasting. The wines within each category will be compared against each other to decide who wins Gold, Silver and Bronze awards.
Looking for a New World Wine Awards sticker on your next bottle means you’re choosing a wine that has been judged as ‘delicious’ by an independent panel of wine experts.
What does vintage mean?
Simply, the year that you find printed on the wine label tells you when the grapes were picked. Why does that matter?
Some wine varieties are matured in barrels before release. If the wine is just appearing on shelves with a vintage statement a year or two older, you’ll know it’s already spent some time maturing.
The main reason wine producers put a vintage on the label is to do with the weather. Was it a mild winter that year? Did the region have a longer summer? Was there a particularly harsh frost? All these factors have an influence on the grapes and the wine being produced, which is why two bottles of Sauvignon Blanc produced in different years by the same winery may taste very different.
Wine and food pairing
Wine and food pairing is fun and a great way to learn more about different varietals of wine. With food and wine matching, be adventurous - as one wine judge recently remarked, one of the most outstanding matches he had tasted with New Zealand Syrah was Singapore Chilli Crab!
While there are no hard and fast rules, here are a few tips that help when selecting the perfect food wine.
- Look at the weight, flavour and texture of the wine and relate it to the food. A big hearty Australian Shiraz may well swamp the delicate flavours of a lightly poached chicken dish, but could also be perfect with sautéed mushrooms with garlic and parsley. There are a few combinations that aren't so great. A red wine like Cabernet Sauvignon and a pan fried white fish tends to be high on the 'this doesn't work list'. The red wine flavour swamps the flavour of the fish and red wine can sometimes give fish a metallic flavour which is very unpleasant. High acid wines like Sauvignon Blanc, Sparkling wine and Riesling don't work well with creamy sauces, but having said that there will always be the exception to the rule.
- When buying wines for gifts, sparkling wines are always a safe bet, as are food friendly wines that display award and medal stickers. Again be bold and use the stickers to choose wines and varieties you haven't tried before. Talk to your New World Wine department staff, they will be happy to help you make that stand-out selection.