The most widely planted white grape variety in New Zealand, and Found in every vinegrowing area, with Marlborough and Hawke's Bay producing the most familiar styles. Wines produced from Chardonnay are usually oak-aged, normally with the secondary malolactic fermentation, and they balance lovely acidity with ripe tastes.
The second most-planted premium grape variety, making white wines with a characteristic, intensely herbaceous flavour. Marlborough is the most familiar source for these wines, with Hawke's Bay producing a more smoky, sometimes woody, fuller style.
Only a little is planted in New Zealand, principally in South Island, but also in Hawke's Bay. It produces classically floral, dry white wines and intensely sweet, botrytized styles
Though no a premium variety, this is second only to Chardonnay in terms of area planted. It produces medium-dry or sweet white wines, used in cheap blends or boxes. This grape is grown chiefly in Gisborne.
Other white varieties
Grapes grown in smaller quantities include Semillon, Gewürztraminer, Chenin Blanc and Palomino (used for sherry-style wines).
The principal red variety in New Zealand. Chief growing areas are Auckland, especially Waiheke Island, now famous for its Bordeaux-blend wines; Hawke's Bay, which produces full-flavoured wines; and Marlborough, which is just beginning to establish a reputation for good Cabernet wines. This grape is increasingly blended with Merlot to produce better-balanced wines. Cabernet Sauvignon on its own produces a slightly herbaceous flavour.
While the Wairarapa/ Martinborough area has produced most of New Zealand's well-known Pinot Noirs, other areas, notably Canterbury and Central Otago, have produced the occasional exceptional wine, which suggests there is great potential for this grape variety. At present, a lot of Pinot Noir is blended with Chardonnay to make bottle- Fermented sparkling white wines, especially in Marlborough.
Occasional straight Merlots from Hawke's Bay and Marlborough indicate that New Zealand is capable of producing world-class wines of this type. But, at present, the greater ripeness this grape normally achieves is used to bolster the sometimes-green Cabernet Sauvignon wines, thus producing classic Bordeaux-style blends.