New Zealand

Grape Types

Chardonnay is one of the most widely-grown and versatile of all white grape varieties. As a relatively neutral grape, it offers a near transparent map of winemaking style, climate and terroir. It is the ideal grape variety for Burgundy, where it serves to mirror the complex nuances of the myriad of terroirs found in this hallowed land. Chardonnay produces a variety of wines from the minerally and unoaked styles found in Chablis, the fatter nuttier examples in Meursault, to the tropical fruit-driven versions found in the New World. It is also the major grape variety in Champagne, where it produces lively floral wines, namely in the Côte de Blancs. It can be found throughout Europe and the New World thanks to its versatility. As a non-aromatic variety, it has an affinity with oak, whether new or used, French or American.
One of the most distinctively perfumed grapes in the world, Gewurztraminer is the Alsace grape which smells of fragrant rose petals, jasmine and lychees. It produces spicy wines that have a tendency to be on the heavy side, though made correctly by good producers such as Domaine Weinbach, it has a fresh uplifting finish. In its late-harvest form, it makes deliciously rich, opulent, exotic whites. It partners particularly well with strong cheeses such as Munster. Growers in New Zealand and Oregon are also experimenting with the variety.
Pinot Gris is also known as Tokay Pinot Gris in Alsace though the prefix Tokay was dropped to appease the Tokaji Wine governing body in Hungary. This is a slightly spicier and more expressive version of its stablemate, Pinot Blanc, and actually a mutation of Pinot Noir. It is one of the chief dry white varieties in Alsace, but also produces some deliciously sweet, age worthy, late-harvest styles. It is the same grape as northern Italy's Pinot Grigio, Germany's Grauburgunder or Ruländer and Hungary's Szürkebarát and is starting to become fashionable in New Zealand.
Pinot Noir is the classic grape of red burgundy, whose greatest wines are concentrated in the east and south-east-facing clay/limestone hills of Burgundy's Côte d'Or. A notoriously temperamental variety, Pinot Noir has proved difficult to grow in certain climates and soils and will not tolerate over-cropping. The best examples have wonderfully expressive aromas and thrillingly pure bitter sweet red forest fruit and cherry flavours, developing truffle and game overtones with age. Outside of Burgundy, Pinot Noir has had great success in New Zealand, California’s Carneros, Oregon and the more marginal, cooler districts in Australia. Along with Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir is also one of the major components of Champagne.
One of the world’s noblest grape varieties, Riesling produces scented, refreshing, mineral wines from dry to lusciously sweet. Its bad reputation, tarnished by the cloying and completely unrelated Liebfraumilch, is one of the wine world’s great injustices. Its heartland is the steep Mosel and Rheingau valleys of Germany, where it produces floral spritzy off-dry to medium wines packed with lime and apple fruit or, when affected by botrytis, honeyed apricot characteristics. In Alsace, Austria’s Wachau and Germany’s Franken there are some exhilarating, complex dry versions that work very well with Oriental fusion foods, as well as some stunning sweet versions. Some superb lively fruit-forward styles are cropping up in New Zealand, Constantia in South Africa and the cooler parts of Australia and California.
There are various styles of Sauvignon Blanc from the fragrant, fresh Loire Valley style reminiscent of cut-grass, gooseberry, flint and nettles, to the contrasting Bordeaux-style, often blended with Semillon and Muscadelle and barrel-fermented to produce the richer, if less assertive, food friendly dry whites of Pessac-Leognan in the Graves. At the same time, it is also a vital component in the sweet, rich and luscious whites of Sauternes and Barsac. As a dry wine it has sprung to particular fame in New Zealand where it is made in a very pungent, expressive style with notes of kiwi passion fruit and mango. While South Africa has also had great success with the variety. Generally considered for youthful consumption, age-worthy examples can be found in Bordeaux, and the Loire from the likes of Didier Dagueneau and François Cotat.
The great red grape of the northern Rhône where it reaches its optimum levels in the violet-scented muscular wines of Hermitage and the graceful sappy Côte Rôties, which in the latter case is sometimes blended with Viognier. The wines of Cornas are renowned as producing Syrah-based wines very close in quality to Hermitage, while St Joseph and Crozes-Hermitage also represent some good value examples. It is also a component of many southern Rhône reds, namely Gigondas and Châteauneuf-du-Pape. As Shiraz, it is Australia's most important red variety, found in various guises from ripe fruit-forward commercial wines to intense concentrated old vine cuvees such as Grange and those of Clarendon Hills. In the best instances Syrah/Shiraz produces deep, spicy, age-worthy wines.
Most famous for the unique Condrieu wines of the Northern Rhone, the best exponents being Andre Perret, Francois Villard, Clusel-Roch and Rene Rostaing, Viognier is a white grape variety widely planted in Southern France for varietal Vin de Pays wines or to use in blends. It is now also being grown in Australia and California for blending with Syrah in deference to the practices in Cote Rotie, where up to 20% of Viognier is allowed to be added to Syrah to add an extra perfume to the wine.