Map New Zealand

One of the advantages of cool, dry climates is that it becomes easier to impose a moderate water deficit than in a hot climate The optimum ripeness window on an individual berry may last only for a very short period of timeBecause cooler climates extend the optimum ripeness window they are more likely to enable the production of great wines.

Martin’s argument can be taken further. The flatter temperature curve in the wine regions of New Zealand encourages a more ‘gentle’ sequence of growth of the vine with sufficient hot spells to stimulate the ripening of the berries. In such thermal conditions it becomes even more important that the final period of ripening is not compromised by too much precipitation or periods of humidity.

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It is not surprising that the east coast of the North Island, where the probability of low pressure systems from the east in the late summer and early autumn is quite high, is not as favoured for winegrowing as it might otherwise be. The Gisborne region is the most susceptible. These lows are sometimes remnant tropical cyclones that have been downgraded to intense lows and may compromise a vintage. Occasionally, as was the case with Cyclone Bola in 1988, full-blooded tropical cyclones can virtually wipe out a vintage. Fortunately, they occur infrequently.

As the vine was initially being dispersed to untried regions, few aspiring winegrowers examined all such maps and decided ‘this is where this variety should be grown’. Rather, grape varieties thought to be suitable for the locality were planted there, and growers and winemakers demonstrated that they were able (or unable) to produce grapes with the desired qualities to make distinctive and appealing wines. Sauvignon Blanc in Marlborough is the best example. In 2009, on the occasion celebrating 30 years of its production, Gerry Gregg, Montana’s Marlborough winery manager in 1979, recalled how the arrival of the first Sauvignon fruit at the winery was something never to be forgotten:

When we got it into the winery, we didn’t know what to do with it. It was so pungent and strongThe first big shipment that went to the UK in 1982 sold straight away.

No other variety grown in New Zealand expresses such a distinctive signature.

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