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Watch out France, New Zealand is on the fast track to becoming top wine producer

vineyards
Mate's Vineyards -- home to some of New Zealand's top white wines  

From CNN's Hope Ngoh

AUCKLAND, New Zealand (CNN) -- New Zealand may be one of the newer players in the wine industry, but it has already carved out a niche as one of the best producers of white wines in the world and is now hoping to duplicate that level of success with its red wines.

Wineries across New Zealand, particularly those located on the south island region of Marlborough, are winning rave reviews from gourmet magazines for their Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.

And for the Brajkovichs, who own Mate's Vineyards just 20 kilometers outside Auckland, winemaking is a family affair.

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"The vineyards started in 1944 when my father and his parents moved to Kumeu and they bought this property," Paul Brajkovic said. "The property they did buy had a vineyard on it, and being from Croatia they used it to make their own wine. The vineyard they had was too large to consume themselves so it then became a commercial prospect."

That prospect became Kumeu River Wine, a company that has won recognition from international wine magazines as a top producer of Chardonnay in just 50 years.

Paul Brajkovich believes New Zealand's push to produce world quality wines began in earnest about 20 years ago.

"Traditionally, a lot of wines produced in New Zealand were fortified and were semi-sweet styles which didn't suit the domestic market. But as soon as protectionism came off probably in the late seventies, the New Zealand wine industry couldn't survive on what they were doing so they started looking at doing things better."

According to marketer Grant Rimmer, orginality also helped New Zealand winemakers.

"We've been quite innovative in a lot of techniques that have been employed to produce the whites, particularly, and also the vineyard techniques...making sure the fruit is ripened to its full ability, and using our climate and our soil types and the various special characteristics that we have to produce the best wines."

One of those techniques was the use of stainless steel vats -- a mainstay of the country's dairy industry.

"Stainless steel wasn't really used at all until the new worlders, the New Zealand and Australian wineries embraced it," says Rimmer. "It's a very clean way of making wine -- free of flavors that might inhabit some of the fruit characteristics and we can also use temperature to make sure that the fermentation runs smoothly."

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RELATED SITES:
New Zealand Wine
The Australian & New Zealand Wine Industry Journal

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