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New Zealand

Being known as a place of rugged, snow-capped mountains, green pastures, and spectacular coastline doesn't hurt when you're trying to market an image-conscious product like wine. But what's even better is when the quality of the wine matches the glorious perception of the place.

Today, wines from New Zealand are in such extraordinary demand that it's almost impossible to imagine that only 40 years ago the entire country contained a less-than-paltry 1,000 acres of vineyard. As of 2000 that total had expanded to more than 30,000 acres. What's the story behind this amazing transformation?

Coastal climate: For growing wine grapes, coastal climates can be tough to beat, and as an island country, New Zealand is blessed with many incomparable sites. The country's cool, maritime climate has proven to be outstanding for white wines and quite good for a number of reds, too.

Stunning Sauvignon: The superlative quality of New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs shocked the world when these crisp and intensely fragrant wines burst onto the scene. Now they are routinely mentioned as among the very best—particularly those from the South Island's Marlborough region.

Watch for: New Zealand Chardonnays and Rieslings can be sensational. And it seems like every year, more and more exceptional Pinot Noirs continue to emerge, increasingly from the South Island's Central Otago district. This district is New Zealand's only inland wine region and also comprises the most southerly vineyard area in the world. If you fancy bigger red wines, try a Cabernet Sauvignon or blend from the warmer North Island's Hawkes Bay region.

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