Other New Zealand Wine Styles

Wine drinkers often remain unaware of just how many other varieties are being grown throughout the country, adding to the diversity and depth of New Zealand wine.

A wine bottle being picked up from a top of a barrel.

New Zealand has built a solid international reputation for its Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, while gaining increasing recognition for varieties such as Chardonnay, Syrah, Bordeaux reds and aromatic whites.

Our minority plantings are often tended by dedicated producers passionate about the varieties and offer an extra dimension for consumers wanting to explore the country's regions, climates and producers.


Albariño – 58ha

Hailing from Galicia in north-western Spain, Albariño has made a happy home in New Zealand, and is now found throughout the country's regions, with more concentrated plantings developing in Gisborne, Marlborough and Hawke's Bay. Typically, wines are light to medium-bodied, fruit-focused with perfumed aromatics and dry fruity palates rich in peach and citrus with a lift of fennel, lemongrass and light spice. Refreshing with a tangy, almost briny minerality, Albariño pairs well with local seafood.

Arneis – 11ha 

The preeminent white wine of Italy's Piedmont region, Arneis was first planted in New Zealand in 1998 at Clevedon. Since then there's been steady interest from producers with vines now found predominantly in Hawke's Bay, Gisborne and Marlborough. New Zealand's cool climate and marked diurnal variation help preserve acidity and showcase Arneis' varietal character; wines are generally dry, medium-bodied and subtly scented, with the classic Arneis elements of ripe pear, apricot and almonds.

Chenin Blanc – 19ha

A wonderfully versatile grape, Chenin Blanc has inspired much loyalty from the handful of New Zealand producers who have fallen in love with its complexity, longevity and sheer deliciousness. New Zealand's cool climate and high sunshine hours ably deliver Chenin's hallmark acidity alongside rich flavours of apple, quince, floral and honey notes. A range of styles is produced from fresh and dry through to lusciously sweet late harvest wines.

Grüner Veltliner – 43ha 

An Austrian native producing pale green wines with citrus, white peach and slight musky complexity, Grüner also has distinctive white pepper and herbal notes (most often dill, gherkin or cooked celery) and refreshing acidity. Grown from Gisborne to Central Otago and everywhere in between, New Zealand's style appears to be emerging as fresh, fruit-forward and varietally faithful with good depth.

Tempranillo – 19ha 

New Zealand's handful of Tempranillo producers span the growing regions producing wines of good character and quality, with especially promising examples emerging from the warmer areas of Hawke's Bay and Waiheke Island. Wines deliver the Spanish red variety's typically robust, earthy character, alongside spicy rich fruit (plum, cherry and strawberry) and dense, chewy texture.

Viognier – 65ha

This French variety is gaining increasing popularity in New Zealand providing an alternative for Chardonnay drinkers (whose fuller body it shares) while offering the attractive aromatics and hint of sweetness for those who enjoy Pinot Gris. Wines vary in style from light and fresh to full-bodied and textural, but generally display ripe apricot, peach, orange blossom, jasmine and spice notes. Plantings are mainly concentrated in Hawke's Bay and Waiheke Island, where occasionally Viognier is also added in tiny amounts to their Syrah, providing additional perfume and lift.

Gamay Noir – 12ha

Gamay Noir is an ancient variety originally hailing from France's Beaujolais region, and while it is only made by a tiny number of producers here in New Zealand, they have deftly captured its bright, juicy, upfront  and cheerful personality, rich in vibrant blueberries, raspberries, cherry and violets and soft, supple structure. 

Montepulciano – 8ha

New Zealand's Montepulciano potential is just beginning to be explored by producers, and styles vary, but the best capture the essence of the Italian original while showcasing New Zealand's vividly pure fruit. Think juicy black and red berries alongside a dash of sour cherry and plum plus a lift of florals and dried herbs. Montepulciano's firm, dry tannins also make it a handy partner to New Zealand's excellent lamb and venison.

Pinot Blanc 15ha

A member of the wider Pinot family (ie Noir and Gris), there's just a smattering of the versatile white Pinot Blanc grown throughout New Zealand, and much of its production is blended into other white wines. When made individually, however, New Zealand's cool, sunny climate highlights soft stonefruit and apple with a hint of citrus and spice aromas and flavours.

Pinotage 15ha

South African hybrid Pinotage has solid pockets of plantings in Gisborne, Auckland and Northland as well as smaller areas in Waipara Valley, Marlborough and Nelson. An earlier-ripening red, it produces gently fragrant, ripe-fruited, softly structured wines with savoury plum and raspberry flavours. Rosé and sparkling styles are also made.

Sangiovese 5ha

Another Italian finding a comfortable spot in New Zealand vineyards is Tuscan red, Sangiovese, grown mainly in Auckland and Hawke's Bay, whose long, relatively warm growing seasons allow it to retain perfume while developing a good depth of red cherry, plum flavours with savoury, floral, spice notes.

Sauvignon Gris – 102ha

No, not a mixture of those popular Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris varieties, but a bona fide variety in its own right (albeit from a clonal mutation of Sauvignon Blanc). Sauvignon Gris does, however, share a similar vivacious fruitiness and medley of fruity, fresh herbal and ripe stonefruit aromas and flavours. Grown mainly in Marlborough, where it is made in dry to off-dry fruit-focused styles.

Semillon – 28ha

Much of the Semillon grown throughout New Zealand is used in blends, where it can add extra depth to Sauvignon Blanc amongst others. However, a few producers with especially suitable sites make wines ranging from dry, full-bodied and fresh-fruited examples through to decadently sweet dessert styles. All retain hallmark vibrant lemon, lime, apple and melon-rich fruit alongside cleansing acidity.

Verdelho – 1ha

Wines from the tiny New Zealand plantings of Portuguese white variety Verdelho can be hard to find but when you do, they are great matches for local seafood. Typically fresh and fruity in style, with light mandarin, honeysuckle and passionfruit notes plus a dash of minerality.

Written by Emma Jenkins MW

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