On the north-easterly tip of New Zealand's South Island, we find the beautiful region of Marlborough, home to some of the New World's finest white wines and dozens of quality vineyards. The region itself has been producing their award winning white wines – most commonly made with Sauvignon Blanc grapes – in large numbers since the 1970s, and is today widely recognized as being home to some of the best examples of both modern and traditional styles of Sauvignon Blanc wines. The region benefits from its dry and hot climate, and the cooling oceanic breezes which help the grapes there reach full ripeness. One of the key features of the Marlborough region is the fact that whilst the days are generally very hot, the nights are cold, thus allowing the vintners who work in the region to considerably extend the grapes' ripening period and encourage much more expression of flavor and terroir. As with nearby Australia, New Zealand has over the past century proven itself to be a superb location for producing high quality wines in vast amounts, with much of the cooler regions of both islands being used primarily for vine cultivation. New Zealand wineries are notable for their enthusiasm in regards to experimentation, and for utilizing modern technologies and methods to make the most of the imported grape varietals which flourish in the rich, fertile soils and oceanic climate. In recent years, it has been the New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc wines which have gained the most attention, as a result of their smoky character and ability to carry the mineral rich nature of the terroir they grow in. Changing consumer interests have brought about a considerable rise in the production of organic and sustainable wines in New Zealand, of which again, the Sauvignon Blanc varietals are leading the way in regards to excellence, flavor and overall character.
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.