Friday, December 18, 2009

New World wine country: New Zealand – facing the fate of neighboring Australia?



Picture: The wine regions of New Zealand

One of the wine success stories in the past couple of decades is New Zealand. New Zealand’s wine makers have penetrated the global wine market with stunning Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir wines, but also with other grape varieties and sparklers.

In line with this development, Tim Atkin, the renowned British wine journalist writing for the Guardian, for example, felt that New Zealand is the most improved wine country in 2009 and he gave his “Most Improved” award to the winemakers of New Zealand.

I was very impressed recently with the wines at

The Providores and Tapa Room, 109 Maryleborne High Street, London, W1U 4RX

If you want to taste New Zealand wines and if you are in London, this is the place to go. I have never seen such a broad and deep selection of excellent wines from New Zealand outside of New Zealand. Naturally, the focus is on Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc.

But the New York Times published an article a few days ago that has poured cold water over the New Zealand success story. The New York Times writes that the New Zealand wine industry faces major challenges, as bulk exports rise and prices fall. In fact, according to the New York Times, the country’s vintners are “desperate to avoid the fate of neighboring Australia”.

Here is first an introduction to the wine country New Zealand, as the wine makers advertise themselves.

New Zealand Wine – Pure Discovery. New Zealand is a land like no other. New Zealand wine is an experience like no other. Our special combination of soil, climate and water, our innovative pioneering spirit and our commitment to quality all come together to deliver pure, intense and diverse experiences. In every glass of New Zealand Wine is a world of pure discovery.

International acclaim. New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is rated throughout the world as the definitive benchmark style for this varietal. The growing recognition for New Zealand Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, M├ęthode Traditionelle sparkling wines, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blends is helping to further cement New Zealand's position as a producer of world class wines.

Diverse styles. New Zealand is a country of contrasts with dense, native forest, snow-capped mountains and spectacular coastline. With wine growing regions spanning the latitudes of 36 to 45 degrees and covering the length of 1000 miles (1,600km), grapes are grown in a vast range of climates and soil types, producing a diverse array of styles. The northern hemisphere equivalent would run from Bordeaux (between the latitudes of 44 and 46 degrees) down to southern Spain.

Temperate maritime climate. New Zealand's temperate, maritime climate has a strong influence on the country's predominantly coastal vineyards. The vines are warmed by strong, clear sunlight during the day and cooled at night by sea breezes. The long, slow ripening period helps to retain the vibrant varietal flavours that make New Zealand wine so distinctive.

Food friendly wines. New Zealand cuisine draws inspiration from the traditional kitchens of France and Italy, as well as the exotic dishes of Asia and the Pacific Rim. Wine styles have evolved to compliment this extensive menu. There are bright and zesty wines such as Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling for fresh and subtly spiced dishes, while complex, mellow Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blends and Pinot Noir offer a timeless marriage with the classical dishes of Europe.

Ensuring the future. New Zealand's small population, distant location and agricultural economy have earned the country a 'clean, green' image. Visitors often describe it as 'an unspoiled paradise'. New Zealand's winemakers and grape growers are determined to keep it this way. Innovative practices in the vineyard and winery which deliver quality in a sustainable and environmental manner, ensure that New Zealand meets a growing world demand for wines that have been produced in a 'clean and green' fashion.



Picture: Auckland, New Zealand

Second, here is Tim Atkin’s upbeat assessment of New Zealand’s wines.

MOST IMPROVED WINE-PRODUCING COUNTRY: NEW ZEALAND

New Zealand has been on an upward curve for the past decade, but with its world-class Syrahs and ever-improving Pinot Noir it deserves special praise this year.

2008 Saddle-back Pinot Noir, Central Otago (£14.99, 13.5%, selected branches of M&S) Light, but with lovely perfume and supple raspberry fruit.

2007 Craggy Range Block 14 Syrah, Hawke's Bay (£16.99, or £13.59 by the mixed case, Oddbins) Craggy's Syrahs are as good as anything in the New World – spice, pepper and depth.

Third, the New York Times article suggesting that the future may be less rosy for New Zealand’s wine makers.

Finally, my posting about the The Providores and Tapa Room in London, where I had outstanding wine from New Zealand.

I had an amazing Riesling

2006, Riesling, Waipara West, Waipara, North Canterburry

The wine displayed a nose of citrus with mandarin and lime and slight floral aromas. Green apple, floral and lime aromas, a full palate with an oily texture and a persistent finish.

The knowledgeable waiter told us that Waipara is situated some forty - five miles north of Christchurch in the South Island of New Zealand. Vines were first planted there in 1981 although commercial winemaking really only started in 1990.

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