New Zealand is a world wine superstar nation in the making. True, it is still a country most wine drinker’s associate with vibrant and intense Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay and though that is still true, Pinot Noir is starting to make big news. New Zealand Sauvignon is like no other in the world and though the best examples are now on a par with the Loire Valley (Sauvignon Blanc’s spiritual home) the taste and style of wine can be very different. It’s intensely flavoured with rich gooseberries, very vibrant and can have a long herbaceous finish. The best examples are beautiful but many of the average bottles available can be a bit samey.
Pinot Noir is New Zealand’s key red grape variety and can be very good indeed from the right producer. The wines are supple, fragranced and quite elegant showing similarities with Burgundy though not quite reaching the same heights. Favourable micro-climates are all around New Zealand and the importance of site/vineyard specific wines is growing, as these unique terroirs develop. It is not uncommon for winemakers to buy in fruit from other specific sites and produce a geographically diverse range of wines.
In the UK, New Zealand wine starts at about Ł6.50+ and the better examples will cost around Ł10-15. Time will tell if New Zealand reaches its potential but the older the vines get and the closer the plantings are made to the exact terroir for those grapes, the better.
The slightly warmer Northern island of New Zealand contains some of the country’s better wine producing regions including Kumeu (Auckland), Gisbourne, Hawke’s Bay and Wellington which includes the increasingly important Martinborough/Wairarapa.
Vintage recommendations (Martinborough) – 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2004
New Zealand’s South Island includes the world famous Marlborough region, Nelson, Waipara, Canterbury and Otago. Though Marlborough is responsible for the largest amount of quality wine coming out of New Zealand it does not have the monopoly on great terroir as other key regions develop their vines and produce better and better wines year after year. Some of the wines of Waipara, Otago and Nelson are very impressive and have caught up with Marlborough in quality, if not quantity.
R – Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah
W – Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gurwurtztraminer