The Kiwis are pretty innovative and a number of wineries run large numbers of trials each year testing new or changing vinification or viticultural techniques.
At the moment a lot of focus is on trying to make “naturally” lower in alcohol wines – this can be done in different ways – picking earlier to start with a must with less sugar and therefore less potential alcohol. Different yeast strains are also being trialed to find a “less efficient one” ie one that consumes more sugar but produces less alcohol.
For more info - https://www.nzwine.com/en/innovation/innovation-new-zealand-wine/lighter-wines/
Many other viticultural techniques being tested across New Zealand at the moment are focused on reducing any chemicals in the vineyard and increasing biodiversity.
Opening up canopy’s to allow air in, can mitigate the need for a spary or two when dealing with mildew for example. Or planting nitrogen fixing cover crops – like beans – can reduce how much fertilizer is needed.
New Zealand are well ahead of the curve when it comes to a genuine movement towards sustainable production – in 2016 98% of New Zealand’s vineyard producing area was Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand certified – unmatched by any voluntary scheme around the world. This is a comprehensive scheme that covers practices in the vineyard, winery and community.
For more information see this link Sustainability | New Zealand Wine
In the winery many New Zealanders are going “back to basics” rather that chasing the latest technology. Whole bunch inclusion is on the up in many pinot producing regions, older and larger format oak is popular too. Premium chardonnays are now often crushed straight to barrel for fermentation, rather than being cold settled before steel vat temperature controlled ferment – this means that a cloudier juice is being used from the beginning – which many argue makes the finished wine more complex – but can also capture some of the naturally occurring sulphite compounds which can give these wines an aroma of struck match (not dissimilar to top burgundies) on opening (known as a “reductive note”). This reduction also acts as an antioxidant meaning that the wines can cellar more securly for longer.
Over and above Sauvignon and Pinot New Zealand has plantings of many different grape varieties.
Chardonnay is the important 3rd most planted variety, with some excellent wines being made across the regions. Felton Road in Central Otago have a great example, Wither Hill’s in Marlborough is a lower price point but offers a lot of bang for buck and of course the wines from Kumeu River really show the potential that New Zealand has to produce Wold Class Chardonnays.
Plantings of Pinot Gris are also significant, interestingly with it being very popular within New Zealand with relative low exports. It is often hailed as the ““next”” big thing to be on the horizon, and we really enjoyed a wine from Brent Marris this year - Three Terraces Pinot Gris - that has been a perfect wine for this wonderful summer!
There are also more Italian, Spanish and Austrian varieties being planted. There are now 46ha of Gruner, over 100ha of viognier, 22ha of chenin blanc, 27ha of albarino and 8ha of sangiovese! Although in small quantities relative to the New Zealand wine industry, they have often been planted by dedicated winemakers who really believe that these varieties could be perfectly suited to their specific vineyard and sub region. They are then often then hand crafted and can be a great success, we try and pick up small parcels of a few of these sorts of wines each year, when they work, and will keep an eye on them incase they become more important to the wine scene in New Zealand.