Vintners in Otago, the world's most southerly wine region, have to reckon with the country's only continental (rather than maritime) climate. They maximize sunshine hours and minimize frost danger by planting on hillside vineyards, a rarity in New Zealand. Because of their peripheral location geographically, Otago vineyards produce small yields, but their wines can offer great concentration and corresponding character, particularly in Pinot Noir and Gew'rztraminer, which show plenty of crispness. New vineyards are being planted here faster than anywhere else in New Zealand, and for good reason: both Canterbury and Otago grapes produce elegant, long-lived Pinot Noir, typically with deep black cherry flavors and fine acidity.
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.