Uniquely New Zealand: Experience wines from father Down Under
November 24, 2008 · Updated 6:20 PM
Today I’m talking about Down Under, but not Australia. Even farther down under: About 1,300 miles southeast of Australia lies New Zealand.
I must admit that I am sometimes guilty of clumping Australia and New Zealand together, even though their respective climates produce totally different wines.
I was fortunate to be included in Seattle’s First Inaugural New Zealand Wine Tasting. Not only are New Zealand’s wines unique, there are also distinct differences within its various regions.
New Zealand is best-known for sauvignon blanc, with pinot noir a distinct second. Wineries in the Marlborough region do the bulk of the production of the two wines. New Zealand is two separate islands: a north island and a south island. The Marlborough wine region encompasses the top eastern half of the south island. The vineyards face east toward the ocean, above river valleys. The mountains to the west provide shelter from the rain.
Sauvignon blanc was first planted in Marlborough in 1973, with the first wine made in commercial quantities in 1980. By the early 1990s, sauvignon blanc was firmly established as New Zealand’s flagship wine and is now New Zealand’s most planted varietal.Marlborough has the lion’s share of New Zealand’s sauvignon blanc vineyards, at 86 percent.
New Zealand sauvignon blanc is both food-friendly and great by itself, perfect for summer sipping. While many domestic sauvignon blancs are very grassy in flavor, the grassiness in New Zealand sauvignon blanc is subdued. The tropical fruit notes are balanced by creaminess, with a backbone of acid.
Among other dishes, New Zealand sauvignon blanc is the perfect accompaniment for oysters.
Again, because of the Marlborough region’s maritime location with the influence of the ocean, pinot noir grows well. The pinot noir grape likes warm, dry summers, cool nights and morning fog.
New Zealand also produces other varietals: chardonnay, merlot, riesling and cabernet sauvignon, with a smattering of semillon, pinot gris, gew