My recent trip to New Zealand in January was just amazing and 3 weeks, 36 wineries and 6 regional tastings later gave me an insight into a country that I would say is very new, very exciting, un-spoilt and completely underrated as far as I’m concerned. Modest in their approach to winemaking, most of which is organic or biodynamic and undiscovered when it comes to grape varieties.
Not only is this the most picturesque country I have ever been too, Lord of the Rings had it spot on I would say. No, this country has so much more to offer in terms of regionality, grape varieties and a style all of their own.
If you think it’s about Sauvignon Blanc, but you couldn’t be further away from the truth. This cool climate country is producing some wonderful European grape varieties that are punching way above their weight. The simplest of all is Chardonnay, a grape grown all over the world but it’s roots are in Burgundy, France, where it produces fresh Chablis and full flavoured Meursault or Puligny Montrachet and I must admit there were many times when I closed my eyes whilst tasting and it took me right back to Burgundy. I just don’t think New Zealand realise what they have here, the climate here makes elegant, divine Chardonnay with great longevity.
Other whites of interest were Gruner Veltliner, with its steely, mineral, citrus character, perfect for a warm summer day, Verdelho with its fruity, honeysuckle and guava character, great with food and Pinot Gris, traditionally from Alsace, France, and this low acid, full flavoured wine is moving away from the sweeter styles to dryer, fresher character. Now, we can’t forget Riesling, a grape that produces such a variety of wines from bone dry to dessert sweet, most of the styles in New Zealand seem to be a little sweet but what comes over to the UK is mainly dry.
Now, you could be forgiven for thinking that all New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc tastes the same, that’s because a lot of the big brands out there do all taste the same, high acid, raw fruit, lots of typical Cat’s Pee character and not a lot of anything else. However, I was amazed at the variety here from region to region, with each winemaker trying to do something a little different, and boy are they succeeding.
On the reds you would expect them to make great Pinot Noir and yes, there’s a lot of it around and it’s very good when it’s in the right region. Now, I like my Pinot true to its roots, Burgundian in style, and I must admit, most of what I tasted blew me away, especially in Martinborough and Central Otago, delightful, elegant styles that are right up my street.
I discovered a lot of Bordeaux Blends out there that were certainly great value for money and would have Pomerol and Margaux shaking in their boots. However, it was the Syrah that impressed me the most and Hawkes Bay was where my love for Syrah really got me excited, especially the Gimblett Gravels, not cheap but then neither is Cote Rotie or Cornas when you come to think of it and these wines certainly gave them a run for their money.
So, there’s more to New Zealand than you think and my daily diary of where I visited and what I tasted can be viewed weekly on my Blog. ‘My journey through an amazing country’