The World of Wine – January 2010

The World of Wine

By Ceci Rodriguez

New Zealand


New Zealand has only just made the top 30 of worldwide wine production. Amazingly, this has been achieved within the lifetime of one generation! This country is making extraordinary, high quality wines.

The first of New Zealand’s vineyards were planted in 1833 by James Busby, who had been a pioneer of the wine industry in Australia. In the second half of the nineteenth century, many settlers from Dalmatia came to work the gum fields of North Island and, in due course, they planted vineyards.

New Zealand has led the field, being the pioneer in canopy management and trellising techniques, in making the best use of the available heat and sunlight to create/enhance sugars and flavours in the grapes. In wine technology, it uses certain advantages like stainless steel and temperature control, to afford high standards of hygiene and careful handling of fermenting wines. Their techniques have resulted in very pure, intense varietal expressions in the wines.

The outcomes have been most dramatic with Sauvignon Blanc, in which New Zealand has created a new classic style. The most important area for Sauvignon Blanc is Marlborough, where this grape develops intense aromas, concentrating on capsicum, cut grass and elderflower, but may include passion fruit, stony mineral notes and hints of creamy oak. If you like white wine, you should include it in your top ten.

Until recently, it had been perceived that because of its climate, New Zealand was a country for white wines only. Now Pinot Noirs are favorably compared with those from Burgundy. Exceptional examples can be found from Martinborough’s rich, cherry-fruit and velvet texture; Marlborough, usually a little lighter and more vegetal, and from Central Otago, whose wines are complex and powerful, yet elegant.

Combined with Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir account for more than three-quarters of all plantings on both Islands. The remaining wines, such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Riesling, account for the remaining one-quarter. Regardless of which New Zealand wine you choose to taste, it will be a good one. These are not cheap wines, but they are worth it. Be assured that you will enjoy each penny that you spend.

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