Marlborough is New Zealand’s most important wine region. With about 56,834 acres of vineyards it produces 75% of all the wine made in New Zealand. Located on the north end of South Island, the region enjoys many hours of sunshine per year, moderate daytime temperatures, low rainfall and cool evenings, all of which make for intensely flavored wine grapes. The stony, well-draining, fertile soil comes from ancient glaciers. Farmers planted vineyards in Marlborough as early as 1873, but wine making was sporadic and mostly targeted toward the bulk wine market until the 1970s, when the region’s potential for winemaking was fully understood. Today it is one of the fastest growing wine producing regions in the world, with new estates opening regularly. Sauvignon Blanc is king here, and about 85% of the region’s vineyards are planted to Sauvignon Blanc. Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc burst on the international scene in the mid-1980s, when Sauvignon Blancs produced by Cloudy Bay began earning international acclaim. (Ironically, the winery takes its name from the nearby bay, which was named “Cloudy Bay” in 1770 by Captain Cook, who deemed it murky and inhospitable.) Pinot Noir is the second most planted grape in Marlborough, followed by Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Gewürztraminer and Viognier.
This red wine is relatively light and can pair with a wide variety of foods. The grape prefers cooler climates and the wine is most often associated with Burgundy, Champagne and the U.S. west coast. Regional differences make it nearly as fickle as it is flexible.