The King of New Zealand: the Sauvignon Blanc

1st June, Wednesday, 2016

This is the date I took the written examination for the Sommelier Certification. The exam was tough, more than I expected. But I passed it! Next round, next week, with the oral and practical examination. 🙂

Why do I feel I need to talk about New Zealand?

So, actually the first of the 12 open question was: list the wine regions of New Zealand and the relative grape varieties. To be honest, panic was my first reaction. I skipped that question moving forward to the next one.

So, why did I panic then?

The hardest part of the exam is trying to remember all these names of regions and grape varieties. The only way to stick them in your mind is… drinking wines from different places in the world. And create an archive about them. So, I will start to write short blogs about the wines I drink, to help my memory as well.

Did I answer to that question?

Yes, sure, I did. I think I am so used to do exams that there is no way I could not write anything. I could remember that Sauvignon Blanc was the King and as well other international grapes (the french grapes).

I did not answer with the detailed names of the regions, but I made a classification between North and South of New Zealand (which actually makes a lot of sense) with relative grapes varieties.



Not an easy territory for cultivate the vines and producing wines, the North Island has a tropical climate closer to the equator and an abundance of rain, which makes harder to produce high quality wines -that’s why the producer are moving to the South Island.

  • Auckland & Northland: chardonnay and Bordeaux grapes from the first region, cabernet sauvignon and merlot in the other one
  • Waikato & Bay of Plenty: chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon of good complexity and structure
  • Hawke’s Bay: chardonnay and sauvignon blanc, which is oaked in barrique – mature exotic fruit and nuts are the characteristic flavours
  • Gisborne: white aromatic grapes such as moscati, gewurztraminer and the semiaromatic chardonnay, for the fresher air and climate


The best of the wine production of New Zealand comes actually from the south, in particular from Malborough region. The recognised king here is Sauvignon Blanc, symbol of New Zealand in the world. Today, more than the 60% of New Zealand vines are of Sauvignon Blanc and Malborough is the most productive region.

  • Malborough: sauvignon blanc, high acidity, aromaticness, exotic fruit, such as papaia and mango, passion fruit and pineapple, lime and melon, peach and litchi, and fennel and tomato leaves, high minerality, asparagus and celery. Pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon are the other vines cultivated in this region, though not with the same success as Sauvignon Blanc
  • Nelson & Tasman: sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and riesling, pinot noir
  • Canterbury: pinot noir, chardonnay and riesling
  • Central Otago: the southest and coldest region of New Zealand. Chardonnay, riesling, pinot gris and pinot noir gives their best here – they have similar characteristics compared to Europe.


I did the effort to remember these regions and to do so, I decided to make a viz – it worked for California before, so…

I collected some data online about New Zealand production, made some data preparation in Alteryx and then a viz in Tableau. Below a screenshot of the dashboard that I published  on my tableau public here.


I hope you enjoyed the reading (and the viz).





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