New Zealand: Vine varieties

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

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Sauvignon Blanc, the variety for which New Zealand established an international reputation, is the country’s most planted variety (20,027 ha/49,488 acres in 2014) with Pinot Noir a distant second (5,569 ha/13,761 acres). A significant percentage of the Pinot Noir crop is destined for sparkling wine production. Chardonnay is in third place (3,211 ha), followed closely by rising star, Pinot Gris (2,412 ha). Merlot has declined in the last decade (1,256 ha). Plantings of Riesling (787 ha), the sixth most planted variety, continue to grow slowly (they have declined from 968 ha in 2010 and the growth now is barely perceptible, unchanged since 2013) as the often slightly sweet and frequently very good wine made from it battles to lose its unfashionable image in the local market place. Other varieties planted on a total of more than 100 ha/250 acres are, in declining order, Syrah, Gewürztraminer (often spelt without the umlaut), Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Cabernet Franc. All vine materials are screened for virus diseases by an official government-run agency, and the number of clones available from the country’s nurseries is considerably more limited than, for example, in Europe.