Is New Zealand becoming a fine wine mecca?

Recently I was privileged to be part of the team that selected the Fine Wines of New Zealand ­–  a new initiative, sponsored by Air NZ, to bring recognition to New Zealand’s most prestigious wines. It was both excruciatingly difficult and wonderfully gratifying.

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A stunning super premium Chardonnay vineyard in Waiheke’s Church Bay.

The quality of the wines was well beyond what I had imagined and made for lively debate among the five Masters of Wine and 1 Master Sommelier tasked with selection.  It reignited a feeling I’ve had for the last few years: that New Zealand is on the cusp of becoming one of the great fine wine countries of the world.  This feeling further deepened when I showed a selection of these wines to a delegation of top sommeliers in Japan a few weeks back.  They were truly awed by the quality.

New Zealand has long enjoyed a reputation as a producer of high quality commercial wines ­– the consistently high quality of our Sauvignon Blancs cementing this position.  It’s not that fine wine producers don’t exist in New Zealand – they do, and many have done for as long as the modern New Zealand wine industry – however in terms of quality and global recognition I believe we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg.  Here’s why:

Our climate and geology

We are perfectly placed in the world for fine wine growing into the future.  As a young volcanic nation we have an incredible diversity of geology which allows for successful cultivation of different varietals.  Crucially we enjoy the cool climate required for premium grape growing but with year on year heat and sunshine – enough … Read more >