Pinot noir is the stand-out variety on the wine scene, with exports of the drink made from black Vitis vinifera grapes doubling in the past decade.
The red wine is big business to New Zealand. The value of pinot noir sold to overseas drinkers hit $122 million last year, up from only $19m a decade ago.
It is the second most popular variety after sauvignon blanc, with pinot noir grapevines planted on upwards of a million hectares more of land than chardonnay.
A four-day festival dedicated to the tipple launched on Wellington's waterfront yesterday, with 500 people attending. Pinot Noir NZ 2013 spokesman Robert Brewer said the industry in New Zealand had evolved since the three-yearly event first was held in 2001.
"Pinot noir is so important to New Zealand because it shows that we can make serious red wine alongside our fantastic sauvignon blanc. This year we have separate venues for the separate regions; that's a sign of the coming of age regionality and saying to the wine world that New Zealand produces premium pinot noir."
The terroir, a French word winemakers use to sum up the combination of soil, weather, vine quality and winemaker passion, seems suited to creating the variety.
Brewer described the New Zealand climate with its dry autumns and cool nights as a "marvellously unique and compelling" environment in which to make pinot noir.
At the industry festival, almost 300 wines of the light-to-medium-bodied-style red wine are showcased to the aficionados. More than a third of the attendees are professional wine buffs from international media. "We get the gliteratti of the wine world, the writers and trade representatives who really make a difference to New Zealand wine sales."
Carterton's Gladstone Vineyard has been making pinot noir since 2000, exporting to Britain, Canada, Australia and parts of Asia.
Its winemaker, Alexis Moore, said the event was significant for the New Zealand industry to highlight the quality of pinot noir grown here.
"People are taking note of the quality of the pinot noir that comes from New Zealand, as a real cool climate region for producing pinot noir grapes. We have the potential to produce really amazing wine and people are starting to acknowledge that in the last 10 years."
AT A GLANCE
10.6m litres of pinot noir exported in 2012, up from 4.1m in 2006.
23,285 tonnes of pinot noir grapes produced in 2012, up from 9402 tonnes in 2003.
4828 hectares of land growing pinot noir grapes in 2012, up from 2624 in 2003.
23.3m tonnes of pinot noir grapes crushed in 2012, up from 9.4m in 2003.
$1.2 billion of wine, all varieties, exported in 2012, up from $281.8m in 2003.
- The Marlborough Express