Now we move to North Island and the longest history of winemaking in the country. Here is a link to an excellent map. New Zealand Wine Regions
The Northland region was the site of the first vineyards in New Zealand. However, both it and Aukland are small and fly below our radar. Interestingly, one of the better known wineries from New Zealand, Kumeu River, is located in Aukland but labels their wines Kumeu, New Zealand. It is just this sort of lack of specificity that helps brand a producer but fails to develop a region.
Speaking only of this particular winery, their chardonnays are outstanding. Offering minerality and depth, the wines have consistently been lauded by the press...and deservedly so. Clay and sandstone help retain enough water to avoid irrigation but allow for sufficient drainage.
Next come Waikato and Bay of Plenty. Often they are used interchangeably but the latter is coastal and perhaps better known for beaches than wine. Production here runs the gamut from sparkling wine to dessert with many varieties of red and white in between. Some of the juice is bottled under other regions' names and this helps to leave the area under-represented in America.
The best known producer is Mills Reef. I have thought well of their wines in the past but they have never blown me away. Although they are located in the Bay of Plenty, the wines mostly come from Hawke's Bay to the south.
The next post will address this area and Gisborne.