Marlborough, though relatively young as a wine-growing region, has the largest wine acreage in New Zealand with more than 4,500 hectares (11,115 acres); its first vineyards were planted in 1973 and now make up 40 percent of all New Zealand vineyard area. This large flat river valley at the northern end of South Island contains a great variety of soil patterns, low soil fertility and good drainage, all of which allow winemakers opportunities for producing fine wines in a great variety of styles.
Marlborough wines first appeared on the international wine scene in 1985 with startlingly fresh, clean yet complex Sauvignon Blancs that made consumers sit up and take notice. Today Sauvignon Blanc is the most planted varietal, showing tropical fruit flavors and pungent capsicum herbaceousness that have come to represent the national style.
Chardonnay, Marlborough's second most popular varietal, is produced in a number of styles including sparkling. Like the Sauvignon Blancs, it often shows tropical aromas and relatively high acidity, and is rarely aged in oak. Riesling also thrives here and can produce both fine dry dinner wines and luscious botrytized dessert wines. The wave of the future is to be found in Marlborough's youngest vineyards, where Pinot Noir is making news and quite a reputation with oak-aged wines of finely balanced structure and supple red fruit flavors reminiscent of young Burgundy. Made into sparkling wines, Marlborough Pinot Noirs can also display a refined austerity. To the northwest, Nelson turns out some elegant Chardonnay with hazelnut and citrus flavors.
Pinot Gris :Of similar origin to Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris owes most of its American popularity to Oregon winemakers (though the Willamette Valley version bears little resemblance to Italy's Pinot Grigio!). It is much less perfumed that Gewurztraminer, with very little aromatic quality. It makes up for that with its food versatility and rich extract of tree fruits such as peaches and pears. Pinot Gris exhibits and exciting spicy quality and acidity in the mouth.
Pinot Gris is generally found wherever Pinot Noir is grown, especially in France where it is to be found in Burgundy, but nowadays it is better known in Alsace. There are plantings in Germany, Italy and in Central and South-East Europe, in U.S.A. where small plantings have been established in several states, and in Australia.
In Australia, although a variety bearing that name was introduced in 1832, it is only in the 1990s that the true variety has achieved recognition by growers and consumers, with the most important but small plantings located in Victoria, and Tasmania and South Australia.
In Australia the varietal label Pinot Gris will usually indicate a wine made in the full-bodied style of Alsace in France and Germany, whilst the label Pinot Grigio will usually indicate that the wine is made in the dry, lighter, Italian-influenced style.