The vineyards of New Zealand lie in between the 35º and 45º latitudes, the European equivalent of between Bordeaux and Southern Spain.
However the cold, strong prevailing westerly winds from the Pacific make for a cooler overall climate than the figures suggest. Growing vines on the margins can have some spectacular results, notably Rieslings in the Mosel and Chardonnay in Chablis. Nevertheless, it was not until the 1980s that large-scale plantings of quality varieties got underway. The whole nation's cultural attitudes changed - Müller-Thurgau was replaced by Sauvignon and was planted on the dry gravely riverbeds of Martinborough and Marlborough. Throughout the 1990s, Pinot Noir vineyards sprouted in all parts of both the North and South islands, from Auckland to Central Otago.
At Justerini & Brooks we have followed developments carefully. We have worked with New Zealand's most respected and sought-after wineries for more than a dozen years. The highly successful Palliser Estate, is now considered the benchmark for Pinot Noir at both Pencarrow and Palliser levels, it is also producing fabulous Sauvignon that has an extra ripeness and texture in comparison to the grassier examples found in Marlborough. The Estate's long-term viticulturist and winemaker, Allan Johnson, has a great advantage in having this dual role, as he has complete control of the winemaking process from start to finish. He spends twice as much money on viticulture than most of his neighbours and the results speak for themselves.
One of our more recent finds is the Foxes Island wines made by highly respected winemaker John Belsham. A domaine approaching 20 years old with a man of John’s experience at the helm was always likely to be of interest and we were bowled over when we tasted his wines. There is a finesse and lightness of touch to the range that makes them gloriously refreshing to drink and definitely echoes John’s experience making wine in France.
Fans of Kiwi wines will already know that the region is largely about the fine balance between omnipresent Sauvignon and Pinots of all levels. To upgrade in quality you need to explore a bit, but the appellations of Martinborough, Marlborough and Central Otago have lots to discover.