New Zealand’s vineyards are the southernmost in the world. In the mid-1980s people began to get excited about white wines made here from Sauvignon Blanc. These vibrant and intensely flavored wines are among the best in the world. Despite the fact that grapes were first planted in the 1800s, the wine industry didn’t really take off until the 1990s.
New Zealand’s wine producers range from tiny to gigantic. Grapes are mostly machine harvested, although some of the top wines are picked by hand. While a few small producers grow their own grapes, the majority of wineries buy grapes from the country’s 500 or so independent grape growers.
The majority of grapes grown are Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. Riesling also does well here, and Pinot Noirs from New Zealand are getting better all the time.
Wine Laws in New Zealand are pretty vague. There are regulations regarding labeling and certain aspects of production. If a grape variety is named on a label, 75% of the wine must be composed of that grape. If two grapes are named on the label, they must be listed in order of importance. When an are, or region is named on a label, 75% of the wine must come from that place.
New Zealand has some of the coolest maritime wine regions in the new world. Because of the narrow shape of the two main islands, no vineyards are very far from the sea. The steady climate and the long growing season allow flavors to intensify and fully develop. The coolness can boost the acidity and add the wonderful crispness often found in these wines.
About 40% of New Zealand’s vineyards are located on the North Island. The biggest districts are Gisborne and Hawk’s Bay. The third major district is Auckland. Finally, in the southeast corner is Wairarapa/Martinborough.
The generally cooler South Island wasn’t planted commercially until 1973. Today Marlborough is New Zealand’s largest wine district, producing mostly Sauvignon Blanc. Other districts include Nelson, Canterbury and Central Otago.
New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc has been described as explosive yet taut, with a spectrum of greens; fresh limes, wild herbs, watercress, cardoons, gooseberries, green olives, green figs, green tea, green melons, plus a host of green vegetables. All this with a tropical backdrop of mango or passion fruit. They are aged in stainless steel, resulting in the clarity, crispness and focus for which they are famous.
I hope you will have the chance to sample some of the great wines produced in New Zealand soon.
It is well to remember that there are five reasons for drinking: the arrival of a friend, one’s present or future thirst, the excellence of the wine, or any other reason. ~Latin proverb
The White Wine of the month is Peter Lehmann’s 2010 Art Series Chardonnay from Australia. This wine is a pale lemon color, with fresh white peach and melon fruit. A blend of Barossa Valley and Eden Valley fruit adds to the complexity. Only 20% is barrel aged in new French Oak, allowing the fresh fruit characteristics to shine.
The Red Wine of the Month is also from Peter Lehmann. The 2010 Art and Soul Shiraz/Grenache is a deep vibrant red color with dark fruits, great aromatics and a beautiful soft finish. Grapes for this wine are from the Barossa Valley. The wine is unoaked and fruit driven. Wine club members please come in early to pick up your bottles.