In part two of our series on New Zealand's next great grapes, we'll be exploring the North Island's unique terroir and tasting the region's top Pinots.
From the stunning ancient forests of Northland to the warm, rolling hills of Hawkes Bay, New Zealand's North Island is a diverse stretch of land that's home to the country's oldest winery, as well as first-rate producers of Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and, of course, Sauvignon Blanc.
Moving (roughly) from north to south, one passes through the following wine regions on the North Island of New Zealand.
The North IslandNorthland – Home of New Zealand’s fist vineyard, planted in 1819, as well as the country’s first wines, which were produced by James Busby (the man responsible for bringing vines to Australia). Mostly planted to Bordeaux varieties with some Chardonnay.
Auckland – Predominantly Bordeaux varieties.
Waiheke Island – Laying just off the coast north of Auckland, Waiheke Island benefits from the moderating effects of the ocean, producing richer wines, and fuller reds than most mainland regions in New Zealand.
Waikato/ Bay of Plenty – Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Gisborne – Chardonnay and the aromatic white varieties find some of the best expressions here.
Hawke’s Bay – Home to New Zealand’s oldest winery, the Mission Estate, which was established in 1851. This is also home to the Gimblett Gravels region, a small (just under 2000 acres) part of Hawke’s Bay distinguished by the deep gravel beds that were laid down by the Ngaruroro River. These lands were long thought worthless until it was discovered, quite recently, that they’re ideal for the cultivation of grapes. In particular, the climate and poor soils have proven perfect for Bordeaux varieties, though it is also producing promising Syrah.
Martinborough – The Southern point of the North Island is home to many Sauvignon Blanc producers as well as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The Pinot Noir from Martinborough has certainly proven to be world class and has paved the way for many other producers and varieties.