New Zealand – Sauvignon and Beyond….

Jon’s missive this month is about the joys of discovering the wines of New Zealand, beyond the phenomenally successful Sauvignon Blanc. You can find Jon’s wine column in Cornwall Today every month.

If there is a place I’d like to visit it has to be New Zealand. Nice people, lots of open space, incredible scenery and fantastic wine. What’s not to like?

New Zealand is also a success story in the world of wine. Twenty five years ago almost no-one in the UK would have tried a New Zealand wine. Now, although the country still represents only around 1% of wine sold in the UK, it commands the highest price per bottle of any country in the world. Not only that, it can make a convincing case to be the home of the world’s most popular and distinctive style; Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.

Marlborough Sauvignon has been a phenomenal success. Pungently, vibrantly fruity and instantly recogniseable, it is easy to like and sells by the truckload. What is, to me anyway, a shame is that this success means people overlook other Kiwi styles that are as good, or better. So here are some suggestions for you to try.

Aromatic styles. The same sunny but cool conditions you need to grow Sauvignon Blanc are also perfect for aromatic grapes such as Gewurtztraminer, Pinot Gris and Riesling. The best of these are akin to wines from Alsace in style with richness of fruit, concentration and ripeness all balanced with great acidity to keep them fresh and zingy in your glass.

Pinot Noir. This is a difficult wine to get right but the best from New Zealand have a ringing clarity of bright fruit flavours alongside huge fresh intensity. The Central Otago sub-region right down in the South island is excellent, but there are also great wines from Marlborough, Waipara and Martinborough.

Big reds. This is perhaps the least likely style for New Zealand to make, since full bodied reds from Merlot, Cabernet and Shiraz in particular need real warmth to ripen the grapes. But, New Zealand is a long country, and conditions on the North Island, particularly on the more sheltered East coast at Hawkes Bay, are far warmer than further South. Expect to find bright, spicy, Syrah styles but with aromatic fruit and moderate weight. Cabernet and Merlot are similar in weight to Bordeaux but with particularly clear and crisp fruit flavours.

To find these wines, look for regions other than Marlborough and grapes other than Sauvignon. Prices for all but the top few wines will be in the £10 to £25 range, so a little more than other countries but the quality you will find is excellent. Do try your local independent shop and do ask for suggestions.

So, that’s my bit of a push for the diversity and sheer joy of New Zealand. Now I just hope I can find enough spare time and money to get myself over there.

One to try. Huia Gewurtztraminer. This is from Marlborough and is made by the wonderful, softly spoken, Claire Allen and husband Mike. All of the wines they make are organic and biodynamic. It has a classic Gewurtztraminer nose with lychee, Turkish delight and a huge ripe intensity. It is delicious.

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