Highlighting the Chardonnay wines from New Zealand

Wine has been grown in New Zealand for nearly 200 years with the first vines introduced by Samuel Marsden in 1819. For most of its history, the New Zealand industry actually focused on producing fortified wines for the local community, due to their greater emphasis on animal agriculture and a preference for beer and spirits.

This all changed during the 60’s and 70’s when Britain entered the EEC, leading to New Zealand exploring more diverse and more cost effective agricultural options for overseas trade. Other factors include the growing popularity of travelling and the recognition that wine is a stable and lucrative culture in Europe.

ChardonnayThe rise of Chardonnay wines

Many different types of grapes were grown in New Zealand, starting with Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Pinot Noir. These early successes led to a growth in the industry which led to an oversupply for a while in the 80’s, causing some growers to leave the industry and others to switch to more fashionable varieties such as Chardonnay.

New Zealand is now well-known for both its Sauvignon Blanc and range of Chardonnay wines and the grapes are grown on the North and South Islands, mainly along the east coast regions.

The focus on white wines was due to the lack of sunshine in New Zealand, making some of the red varieties less abundant and vigorous, although Pinot Noir now has a solid foothold in the market.

Due to the difference in climates and hours of sunshine between the two New Zealand Islands, there is a distinct difference in the taste of the Chardonnay wines. One notable difference is that on the North Island, Chardonnay grapes are harvested in mid to late February, due to the late summer heat, but not until mid-April, are they harvested in the South Island. This leads to a difference in acidity and richness to the wine, between the North and South islands.

In general there are 3 major growing areas for Chardonnay in New Zealand.

Gisborne: Located on the eastern tip of New Zealand, Gisborne grapes are blessed with lots of sunshine, shelter from the mountains and fertile alluvial soils. This warm, dry climate has cooling afternoon breezes, which makes this the perfect area for growing their world-class Chardonnay grapes.

Hawkes Bay: Just 3 hours south of Gisborne is Hawkes Bay, this region has more of an eclectic type of soil, ranging from fertile sandy loams to gravelly coastal areas. Whilst Gisborne is famous for its Chardonnay, Hawkes Bay is the leading producer of full-bodied red wines in New Zealand, although they also specialise in rich and complex Chardonnays.

Marlborough: Located on the north-eastern corner of the South Island, Marlborough has broad alluvial plains, protective mountain ranges and whilst it is famous for its Sauvignon Blanc, it also produces some of the best Chardonnays in New Zealand.

With its natural beauty and wonderful climate, it is no surprise that New Zealand has risen to prominence in the wine industry. To make the most of the available range of chardonnays from New Zealand, match them with seafood, chicken or cheese and don’t forget a rich, creamy garlic sauce and a crisp tomato salad.





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