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Graham Cowley
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Regional Overview
Northland’s involvement with wine goes back to the start of the european colonisation of New Zealand. Marsden planted vines before 1840 and Busby made the wine. In 1903 Bragato reported Syrah to be growing in the region.
However, since then, Northland was considered a more difficult area to grow grapes on a large scale and so the wine industry established itself in the regions that we know today where land was readily available and the climate was considered easier to operate in.
However the Northland has one considerable advantage over the established regions – its warm and there is very little cooling down at nights. Consequently this produces a long and even growing season which is well suited a later maturing grapes variety such as Syrah.
Another advantage is there is no frost risk.
The disadvantage is that it can rain. Advances though in viticultural techniques, improved disease control plus the use of drier sites with good drainage means that Northland can produce quality wine on a consistent basis. Not withstanding that Northland still is not suited to thin skinned varieties such as Pinot Noir which as a result are disease prone.
However thicker skinned varieties such as Cabernet, Pinotage and Syrah are more disease resistant and can be grown successfully, using when needed, the help of today’s disease prevention technology.
These varieties benefit from the extra heat, producing wines with a different style and flavour profile than the cooler climate areas elsewhere in NZ. As a result the area under cultivation is expanding. Northland though will remain small in comparison to the existing areas.
This gives it the opportunity to establish its own wine style. The climate provides more heat and the smaller blocks allow more hands on winemaking. The wine style is still evolving but once the wines from the excellent vintages of 2004 and 2005 are released Northlands style should be more apparent.
Certainly in the case of Syrah there is less black pepper in the wines in comparison to Hawkes Bay, although hints of white pepper remain.
Overall as shown by increasing success in wine shows the area has already proven its capacity to produce top premium wine. This will only increase over time with the better sites coming into production with the latest clones.

Regional Overview


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