New Zealand red wines are typically made from a blend of varietals (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and much less often Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec), or Pinot noir. Recently, in Hawkes Bay, there have been wines made from Syrah, either solely or blends, as well as Tempranillo, Sangiovese and Montepulciano.
Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay predominate in plantings and production of New Zealand white wines. There is little discernible difference in styles for Chardonnay between the New Zealand wine regions so far. Individual wine makers and the particular qualities of a vintage are more likely to determine factors such as malolactic fermentation and the use of oak barrels for ageing.
New Zealand Sauvignon blanc has been described by some as “alive with flavours of fresh citrus fruit and cut grass”, and others as “cat’s pee on a gooseberry bush” (but not always as a criticism).
Other white varieties commonly include Riesling, Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer, and less commonly Chenin Blanc, Pinot Blanc, Müller-Thurgau and Viognier.
Excellent quality Methode Traditionelle sparkling wine is produced in New Zealand. Typically, it was Marlborough that was the commercial birthplace of New Zealand sparkling wine. Marlborough still produces a number of high quality examples, and has attracted both investment from Champagne producers such as Deutz and also champanois wine-makers like Daniel Le Brun. Other sparkling wines from Marlborough include Pelorus (from Cloudy Bay), and Lindauer.