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New Zealand has built up a reputation for making world-class Sauvignon Blanc that rivals the best from the Old World. However, there is plenty more to New Zealand wine, with Chardonnay and Riesling both big on the white front and several red grapes producing wines of exceptional quality.
Sauvignon Blanc was first planted in New Zealand in the 1970's. It originated in Auckland and cuttings were taken and were planted in Marlborough. Sauvignon Blanc seemed to love the soil and climate, so production in this region soon took off. By 1990, New Zealand had become so famous for Sauvignon Blanc that it was established as the country's flagship wine and it was giving highly esteemed French Sauvignon Blanc, such as Sancerre, a run for its money.
Unlike Old World Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc tends to have more of a citrus zesty and aromatic edge to it, rather than the green pepper and gooseberry flavours of a classic Sancerre. With more than 50% of New Zealand's wine production devoted to Sauvignon Blanc, you'll come across such a range of wonderfully refreshing and crisp wines that you won't know where to look first. If there's one tip that we can give to help you when choosing your wine from New Zealand, make sure you shop around. Marlborough has developed such a reputation for Sauvignon Blanc, especially in the areas around "Cloudy Bay", you'll come across some pretty steep prices. So if it is value for money that you after, try looking to the smaller Marlborough wineries or even outside Marlborough altogether. Nelson is just along the coast and is producing some excellent quality New Zealand wines for fantastic value. Like in France, try and avoid paying for the name!
New Zealand produces some other great white varietals, which are worthy of a taste. New Zealand Chardonnay, for example, like other New World Countries is produced in a range of styles, from crisp clean unoaked Chablis-styles, to buttery rich oaky wines. Following the success of this grape in Australia, Riesling is being planted more and more. Very different in style to the sweeter Rieslings of Germany, New Zealand Rieslings are deliciously aromatic and dry.
New Zealand has started to produce some top class wines on the red front too. The widest planted red is the usually difficult to grow Pinot Noir. Look to the slightly cooler regions if you fancy tasting one of New Zealand's most prestigious grapes. Especially Martinborough on the North Island for rich cherry-flavoured, full bodied Pinots, and Central Otago on the South Island for slightly more elegant, powerful and complex examples. Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are other grape varieties to look out for and make some delicious full-bodied reds, particularly from the warmer, northern regions such as Hawkes Bay.
New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc tastes exceptionally good with fresh fish and seafood, as well as dishes with oily or citrus-based dressings. Chardonnay also works well with fish, as well as poultry and creamy based dishes. Riesling makes a great match for spicier dishes or dishes with a touch of sweetness to them, including salads, fruit and cheeses.
The strong flavours and firm tannin structure of Cabernet Sauvignon is perfect coupled with a strong food partner like lamb or duck, while Merlot, which has a slightly softer structure, goes well with leaner meats and more savoury dishes. Pinot Noir also tastes great with lean meats, cheese or fish dishes.