- a country that has been growing vines and producing wine since the early 1800s but has only recently become an important producer in the world market. Winemakers have imported European vines and hybrids to test in the local cool climate, and now vineyards are widely planted with the Müller-Thurgau, Chardonnay, Riesling, and Sauvignon Blanc white wine grape varieties, although Sauvignon Blanc is the variety with which New Zealand has been most successful. The country’s best wines are its white wines produced from this range of grape varieties, including sweet dessert wines made from Riesling grapes infected with the fungus Botrytis cinerea. Its red wines are produced from other European grape varieties including Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and Merlot, and also the South African Pinotage. The regions on the North Island are: Auckland, which includes some of the country’s oldest established vineyards and wineries, and is best-known for its Bordeaux style wines, especially its mouth-filling Cabernet Sauvignons and its complex, fruity Chardonnays; Gisborne, producing distinctive Chardonnays; Hawkes Bay, where Chardonnay is the most widely planted grape variety, but the long sunshine hours are conducive to later-ripening red grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Syrah; and Martinborough and Wairarapa, populated by small producers making good Cabernets and Pinot Noirs. The South Island is dominated by Marlborough, New Zealand’s best-known area. Two hours’ drive from Marlborough lies Nelson, whose vineyards concentrate on cooler climate varieties: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, and Pinot Noir account for over 80 per cent of the grapes grown. Canterbury’s first vineyard was only planted in 1977 but it is becoming well-known and appreciated for its Chardonnay, Riesling, and Pinot Noir wines. Central Otago is the world’s southernmost wine-producing region. The conditions are ideal for producing high-quality Pinot Noir and Riesling wines.