WSET Level 3 Revision | New Zealand



  • Cool maritime climate excl. Central Otago where there is a dry continental climate
  • High diurnal range
  • Generally cool but North warmer vs. South with north of North Island (Auckland) sub-tropical (23C avg temp in Jan)
  • Latitude comparison w Morocco and Bordeaux made irrelevant by maritime isolation.
  • Rain can be a problem but most vineyards planted on the eastern side so protected from westerly winds & rain by central mountain range.
  • Frost can also be a problem too (e.g. Marlborough in 2007), esp. in Spring & Autumn.


  • Vineyards usually grown on flat or gently sloping land
  • Varied soils; often fertile => can be overly fertile => excessive shoot and leaf growth => trellising and other canopy management techniques.
  • Problems: Fungal diseases and birds.


  • 2006: GI Registration Act based on the Australian GI program.
  • 2007: Labelling laws state that wines must have 85% of variety, vintage and area stated on the label.



  • Sauvignon Blanc: Flagship grape
    • Pungent aromas, intense flavours of elderflower and passion fruit, and high acidity.
    • Warmer North: tropical flavours
    • South: higher acidity, green bell pepper and gooseberry
  • Chardonnay: Concentrated citrus and tropical fruits with subtle hints of toast and sweet price from new French oak.
  • Riesling
  • Gewurztraminer
  • Pinot Gris


  • Pinot Noir:
    • Widely grown throughout the South Island and within a few selected sites in the North Island.
    • Vibrant fruit, fine ripe tannins, soft texture and often quite high levels of alcohol.
  • Merlot
  • Cabernet Sauvignon:
    • Often blended to add tannin and notes of cassis, making up a Bordeaux-style blend => purity of fruit flavours.
    • Strongly concentrated in the North Island due to warm temperatures => ripen black grapes.
  • Syrah
    • Performs best in warmer sites => elegant wines that are closer in style to those of the Rhône.




  • Auckland
    • Warm and the wettest part of NZ
    • Fungal diseases
    • Grape varieties: Chardonnay, Merlot, Syrah
    • Top wines from Waiheke Island.
  • Gisbourne
    • Rainfall is high (and temperatures and sunshine hours)
    • Grape varieties: Chardonnay (rich tropical fruit flavours), Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris (full bodied)
  • Hawke’s Bay
    • Warmest of the main grape growing areas
    • Longest sunshine hours
    • Famous for Merlot and Cab Sauv in Bordeaux-style blends & Premium Syrah.
  • Wairarapa
    • High temperatures in summer
    • Wide diurnal range
    • Most important area is around the small town of Martinborough.
    • Reputation for Pinot Noir (medium to full-bodied and ripe with hints of dark plum and spice).



  • Marlborough
    • Major centre for grape growing in NZ
    • Most of the vineyeards lie in two adjacent estuary valleys
      • Wairau:
        • Similar climate to Marlborough with long sunny days
        • Range of aspects and altitudes to work with
      • Awatere Valley:
        • Drier, cooler and windier => Sauv Blanc have a higher acidity with a pronounced herbaceous character and lack the tropical fruit flavours.
    • Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are widely planted => sparkling wines
    • Other varieties: Riesling and Pinot Gris.
  • Nelson
    • Cooler and wetter than Marlborough
    • Grape varieties: Sauv Blanc, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris.
  • Canterbury
    • Two main centres of viticulture:
      • West of the town of Christchurch
      • Waipara Valley: less exposed to the ocean due to a range of hills.
    • Cooling influence of the Pacific + Warming effect from north-westerly winds.
    • Grape varieties: Sauv Blanc, Pinot Noir and Rieslling in Waipara.
  • Central Otago
    • Located inland in the foothills of the Southern NZ Alps
    • Climate: continental
    • Frost damage is a real risk both in spring and autumn.
    • Warm Summers
    • Diurnal range: large
    • High intensity of sunlight => high levels of alcohol
    • Grape varieties: Pinot Noir (full bodied, juicy and vibrant with concentrated ripe red fruit flavours), Pinot Gris, Riesling and Chardonnay.

Source: WSET Level 3 Text book

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