In the past, New Zealanders typically ordered a pint of beer to go with their roast lamb. Nowadays, you may be just as likely to overhear dinner patrons ask for a Cab/Merlot blend with soft tannins, aged in French oak. For the New World wines being produced in New Zealand, it truly is a whole new world. Land so rocky that previously farmers couldn’t even raise sheep, now fetch upwards of $20,000 per acre for vineyard plantings. Over the past decade, wine production has more than tripled from 16 million to 54 million gallons, and the country holds 600+ wineries. Critics praise New Zealand wines lavishly. “I would now without hesitation serve a Pinot Noir from New Zealand alongside, or even ahead of, a Pinot Noir from Burgundy,” remarked British wine writer Oz Clarke.
Production however, still remains comparatively small. Gallo, the large American producer, crushes more grapes in a day than New Zealand does in an entire year. Likewise, travel in New Zealand wine country remains very personalized. At “cellar doors” (tasting rooms), winemakers will often climb out of fermentation vats to greet visitors. Here’s a taste of New Zealand’s foremost appellations: