Ultimate Guide to the Marlborough Wine Region

The Marlborough region is the leading wine-producing area in New Zealand. See our collection of wine pictures.
iStockphoto.com/Mark Senior

­A truly successful wine must have its own flav­or, its own character. It must be distinctive in style, taste and aroma -- after all, dozens of regions produce the same types of wine, their own Cabernets, their own Merlots, their own Chardonnays, their own Rieslings. So what, then, makes one wine so much better over its counterpart in a different region? You'd probably guess that an area with a long history of winemaking would be the winner. After all, experience counts. However, you'd be hard-pressed to explain the overwhelming popularity and success of the Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.

The Marlborough wine region, located on the eastern coast of New Zealand's South Island, is the leading wine producer in the country, but it's been making wines only within the last half-century. And it wasn't until the mid-1970s that the Sauvignon Blanc grape, for which the region has received worldwide acclaim, was even planted [source: Apstein].

­Luckily for Marlborough, the region seems to have the exact climate that the Sauvignon Blanc grape loves. Somehow, a perfect storm is created and these grapes have a bold, zingy flavor (called piercing, thrilling and electrifying by various critics) that wine lovers can't get enough of. It's so good that even the French -- who have been at this a lot longer than the Kiwis -- ar­e trying to copy them [source: Quaffers]. It's all pretty impressive for a region that's only been at this for about 30 years.

So how did a small New Zealand region that had no interest in winemaking 50 years ago become the leader of its country's wine production? How did this wine become the envy of its competitors? In this article you'll learn the key as you discover the history, culture and agriculture of the Marlborough wine region, as well as the other wines of the region that respectfully hold their own.

Let's start at the beginning by learning about the Marlborough region's short but sweet winemaking history.