Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Blog Down South . . . All Wines Kiwi

New Zealand Wine

If your free association isn’t instantly Sauvignon Blanc, frankly, I would be surprised. After all, Sauvignon Blanc accounts for roughly 79 percent of the wines exported from New Zealand, and that the pungent, grass and grapefruit-laden liquid is one of the world’s most unmistakable and dramatic wine styles. As a young(er) wine buff back in my home-state of Florida, I developed quite the ‘NZSB’ habit during the 11 months of summer. It is a seasonal craving for me now that I call moderate Northern California home, but as the temperature is starting to push the mercury, my addiction has been roused. Even as I write this, I sip unapologetically on a glass of the 07 Spy Valley Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc; if you are still unclear of what defines this region by style, stop reading and just taste it-- this guy is the textbook.

Now what if I were to say: “New Zealand Red Wine?”

Yep, if you think screw caps are a brilliant Kiwi invention, wait until you taste their offerings of that testy little diva, Pinot Noir. Most wineries brave enough to produce Pinot Noir might say they are in a perpetual experimental phase; New Zealand winemakers can technically claim it - the plantings of Pinot have shot up nearly 10 times in 10 years, and it is still trial and error when it comes to working these young vines. While I would say that Central Otago, the southernmost wine region in the world is the trade and media darling, the Pinot Noirs from Martinborough, a region at the tail end of the North Island seem to be the most consistently balanced. The best feature intoxicating aromatics of dusty floral and fallen leaves, perky acidity and an acceptably generous portion of red berries. They are not nearly as esoteric as Burgundy, but seem to offer more layers of spice and floral than many California Pinot Noir; it is most tempting to liken the best of New Zealand Pinots to the good juice flowing out of Oregon. I have had the good fortune to recently taste the 2006 Escarpment Pinot Noir from Martinborough, hands-down my new favorite this week.

“Purity” is the buzz-word for describing the ‘NZPN’, which I’m beginning to think is just how this country likes to keep things . . . unadulterated.

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