Clos Henri Vineyard

New Zealand

New-World wines from New Zealand winning Old-World wine competitions


Clos Henri is the product of Jean-Marie Bourgeois, a tenth generation member of the dominant Loire Valley wine family that has ruled as the quality leader of the marvelous Sancerre district of France for hundreds of years. For many years, the Bourgeois family's Sauvignon Blanc made under the appellation of the commune was generally considered the finest Sauvignon Blanc in the world. That all changed in 1985 when an upstart winery from New Zealand named Cloudy Bay wrestled a way the top prize in an international competition of Sauvignon Blancs from the Bourgeois entry.

Some fifteen years later, Jean-Marie Bourgeois decided to travel to New Zealand and see for himself. By then, a number of New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs were already considered to be among the best in the world. Charmed by the Marlborough terroir and the absence of French bureaucratic red tape, Bourgeois decide to join his competition and subsequently bought property in Marlborough where Cloudy Bay was located.

He chose to name the new winery Clos Henri in honor of the patriarch of the Bourgeois family. Bourgeois planted his vines and waited to produced world-class wines similar to those he was producing in France. In 2001, against the advice of a number of his other French wine producers, Bourgeois gathered together ones from twenty-two producers in both New Zealand and France for a blind tasting. The results showed that the farsighted Frenchman had indeed accomplished his mission as the wines of New Zealand were indistinguishable from those of France.

Clos Henri's star had risen rapidly among the top New Zealand producers and today ranks at the very top of the group. Its wines have won numerous accolades and awards and the future seems even brighter. Production at Clos Henri is still smallish but Bourgeois hopes to achieve a goal of around 45,000 cases in the not too distant future. From his initial success, most wine industry insiders don't believe this will be a difficult goal for Bourgeois and Clos Henri to achieve. Cheers!

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New Zealand Slang

Mum - Mom
Nana - female grandparent
Nancy - male grandparent
Push bike - bicycle
Sticking plaster - band-aid
Sunnies - sunglasses
Ta - thanks
Tata - goodbye
Tasty cheese - sharp cheddar cheese
Tea - generic name for evening meal
Tramping - hiking
Togs - swimsuit, bathing suit
Tomato sauce - catsup
Torch - flashlight
Walkshorts - dressy shorts for men
Wop-wops - out of the way location


New Zealand's Wine History

Even though New Zealand’s first grape plantings at Kerikeri by missionary Samuel Marsden were recorded during 1819, while the first accounts of a wine being produced were by British immigrant James Busby at his Waitangi Plantation in 1834. Thereafter, it took more than 160 years for New Zealand’s grape growing and winemaking to make any significant impact on the world’s wine industry.

This modern renaissance began sometime during the early to mid 1970’s, when early New Zealand winemakers began making wines that caused a stir around the world. The country’s first wine exports occurred as early as 1970, but it took the better part of that decade for the first New Zealand wines to make their mark on the world market. Thereafter, production grew at an alarming rate and, today, practically every part of the small country can be counted as one of New Zealand’s ten producing wine regions.

While New Zealand is made up of two separate islands (North Island and South Island), the area that produces wine covers approximately 720 miles from north to south (equating roughly from California to Washington in the United States). While it is the most southerly of the world’s wine growing areas, New Zealand sits on latitudes that are similar to Italy and contains climates that are comparable to its better known rival in Bordeaux. In fact, the tiny country offers a wide diversity of climates and soils that suite the cooler growing grape varietals, namely Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Interestingly, it was the oft-maligned Sauvignon Blanc that first brought New Zealand and her wines to international attention. Sometime between 1973 and 1975, a number of New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs made their way into international competitions and, in some cases, beat their much-heralded European counterparts, much to the astonishment of the consuming wine world.

This early success served as a signal to the fledgling New Zealand wine community that their wines could be competitive with any other country’s wines, and that it was time to take advantage of the situation. Benefiting from the fact that their country’s growing season occurs during the European wine growing world’s hibernation period, a number of New Zealanders set out for Europe where they worked diligently alongside their French and Italian counterparts to learn the secrets of world-class winemaking.

It was entirely possible for these men and women to work twenty vintages in ten years, and many did so, applying their expertise and training to the new wines that were being produced each year back in New Zealand. Over the next thirty years, production techniques and quality continued to improve as well, as did the overall world reputation of many New Zealand wines and wineries.

From the handful of wineries that existed back in the 1970’s, the number of wineries has grown to over four hundred at latest count and shows no signs of stopping. Today, in many parts of the wine world, it is commonplace for New Zealand wines to garner top prizes in the very highest international wine competitions.

And, to add icing to the cake as it were, the Sauvignon Blanc that started it all in 1975 has become New Zealand’s trademark wine. Wine connoisseurs around the globe consider the New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc as the finest example of that varietal produced in the world, much to the chagrin of French and California winemakers and wineries.

The growth of the New Zealand wine industry has continued unabated, and has more than doubled in the decade between 1996 and 2006. The effects of the cool, maritime climate that conveniently cloak practically all New Zealand vineyards promises even better things to come.

New Zealand’s largest wine producing region is in Marlborough, located on the northeast corner of the South Island. Formerly known for its sheep and wool production, Marlborough the area where the first commercial vineyards were planted in Sauvignon Blanc in the early 1970’s and is today’s largest wine producing region.

The country’s other large wine producing areas are Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne and along with Marlborough, account for almost 90% of New Zealand’s grape production.

The future seems incredibly bright for both New Zealand’s emerging wineries, which seem to revel in the fact that their wines are constantly under estimated. That same desire and determination that caused New Zealand to be developed in the first place, and should continued for some time to come.


Reading a New Zealand Wine Label

New Zealand's mandatory and optional wine label requirements.

(m) = mandatory information on label; (o) = optional information