New Zealand – sparkling wines

The sparkling wine business is quite young in New-Zealand. Historically, there had not been the right grape varieties to make sparkling wine. In the last thirty years it’s getting some more attention. Montana was the first to make a sparkling wine in 1981, but it was the Montana/Deutz collab – seven years later – that really put NZ on the map of premium sparkling wines.

Fast forward to 2008 – when the sparkling sauvignon blanc phenomenon started, which partly had to do with Marlborough’s overproduction.

From the interview with Frédéric Panaiotis of Ruinart in the GuildSomm Podcast:
The second fermentation in the bottle is the flavour enhancer, so if you have something that you barely detect on your blend before you put it in the bottle – you can be sure that after two, three years of ageing that little thing is going to scream. That’s why you don’t make sparkling sauvignon blanc.

Nope, traditional method sauv blanc is probably not the best idea. But why not put some fizz in the juice? Yep, the sparkling sauvignon blancs were carbonated. A bit embarrassing but a big hit nonetheless.

Location & climate

The production of sparkling wines is concentrated in Marlborough. Marlborough has a cool climate with maritime influences. The summers are dry and sunny.

Grape varieties

Most premium sparkling wine from New Zealand consist of chardonnay and/or pinot noir. There’s still some carbonated sauvignon blanc on the market.

Vinification & wine styles

Most of the wine is made using the traditional method or transfer method. The biggest producer sparkling wine from New Zealand is Lindauer (owned by Pernod Ricard), they use the transfer method. Smaller producers often use contract facilities to bottle, age and/or disgorge their sparkling wines to avoid high equipment costs.

The styles that are common are non-vintage, vintage, rosé and blanc de blancs. A vintage doesn’t really mean the same as a vintage champagne – quality wise, since the vintage variations are not as big in New Zealand as in Champagne.

Scale of production

The scale of production of premium sparkling wine is quite small. In 2016, the total export accounted for 1.33 million liter of sparkling wine. Dat zijn bijna 1 miljoen flessen. The total production of Champagne accounted for 362 million bottles in 2018.

Challenges

The biggest challenge is the fight for market share with the more established wines, both from Old and New World, like prosecco, cava and sparkling wine from Australia.

Also, it’s quite hard to sell NZ sparkling wine on the local and global market. People don’t want to pay too much, even though it might be as good as champagne (or better). Producers came up with ‘methode marlborough’ to make the category more stand out from the rest.

You like? Check out other WSET Diploma study notes.

Sources & suggested reading

Ik ben Nadien de Visser, wijnliefhebber pur sang. Ooit begonnen door een studie in Frankrijk en bij thuiskomst Le Club des Vins opgericht. Dé plek om je wijnkennis bij te spijkeren.

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