Only two decades ago, this south Pacific country had basically one wine – a riesling – with which locals washed down fish and chips, and, believe it or not, spaghetti sandwiches.
It is interesting to know that things have changed for the better. Little New Zealand towers on the global wine map with some of the best tasting Sauvignon Blanc anywhere.
Loire vignerons produce fine Sauvignon Blanc but New Zealand seems to offer a more perfect terroir for this grape. Pinot Noir may be the next grape to conquer the minds and palates of the world’s wine enthusiasts.
New Zealanders have been able to take the long experiences and technologies of Europeans and adopted them to local conditions extremely well.
So well, that their Sauvignon Blancs now outshine Loire wines during international competitions.
New Zealand is a sunny country even in the winter months of July and August. The scenery happens to be beautiful with pastures and forests everywhere. Driving here can be a delightful experience once you get used to driving on the left side of the road.
Both islands (North and South) offer natural beauty seldom found anywhere else.
Air New Zealand and a few other airlines fly direct from Loa Angeles to Auckland, the biggest and financially most important city of the country. After a short ferryboat ride from Auckland, you can visit Waiheke Island, home for many small quality-oriented wineries like Goldwater Estates and Stoney Ridge, Olive groves, and cork tree farms.
Their Sauvignon Blanc are absolutely delightful in depth, balance and refinement. Hawkes Bay to the east and south of Auckland is a large region (by New Zealand standards), famous for its Chardonnays, Pinot Noirs, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc. There are many small wineries close to one another. All have tasting rooms and generally like to sample tourists with their delightful wines. Many are involved in exporting, particularly to the Unites Kingdom and the USA but Canada is also becoming a growing market.
In the late afternoon-light, vineyards here are iridescent in the foreground, cumulus clouds blowing wild overhead. Restaurants serve farmed ostrich, imaginatively prepared seafood, and desserts containing local honey to which therapeutic properties are attributed.
Although Hawkes Bay enjoys an excellent reputation for Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, Merlot also seems to be poised to become excellent. It is fruity, medium-bodied, harmonious and possesses enough acidity to make it appealing even to an inexperienced wine drinker.
Further south from Hawkes Bay you will find Martinborough, a small region where fine Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs are produced. Mueller-Thurgau does well here and is grown in huge quantities for inexpensive everyday wines that represent good value.
Here you can also taste the olive oils of New Zealand. They have become famous although the groves were replanted only 20 years ago. The first were planted in 1860s, but never exploited on a large scale.
Further south on the northeastern corner of the south island, Marlborough enjoys a reputation for its suave Sauvignon Blancs, but Riesling, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon and merlot blends can rival any wine anywhere. Young, ambitious winemakers experiment, and try to establish the best varieties for their terroir. They are also not afraid to experiment with new wine making techniques, which their more traditional European counterparts never dared.
Nelson, Canterbury and Otago are the other relatively, small, but up and coming wine regions of south island.
Otago could potentially produce excellent Pinot Noirs. Overall, south island vignerons are discovering the suitability of their grapes for sparkling wines.
Deutz, the famous Champagne house, invested in vineyards and produces fine methode champenoise sparkling wines, as does Cellier Le Brun. But there are many more and soon world markets will be inundated with high quality methode champenoise New Zealand sparkling wines at reasonable prices competing with French champagnes.
It will be interesting to see how the French will respond to the challenge.
Soft spoken and dispassionate winemakers of New Zealand have decided to put the country on the world wine map and are doing it quickly, effectively and efficiently. You can even find a New Zealand wine shop in Beaune, the wine capital of Burgundy, selling Pinot Noir to Burgundians.
If you go: Air New Zealand flies direct daily from Los Angeles to Auckland. Air Canada and other air lines operate frequent daily flights from Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and Calgary to Los Angeles.
Currency: New Zealand $ is approximately 50 percent of the Canadian dollar.
Accommodation: New Zealand offers fine hotel rooms in small establishments and at reasonable cost.
Auckland has many “ branded “ hotels offering standard rooms at world prices.
In Hawkes Bay, Woolshed Apartments Info@woolshedap.co.nz , in Martinborough
For more information contact Tourism New Zealand 501 Santa Monica Boulevard # 300 Santa Monica, Ca 90401 Tel. No. 866 639 9325 Fax ; 310 395 5453