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Friday, February 28, 2020

New Zealand Beyond Sauv Blanc

NZ's top level Pinot Noir, Chardonnay & Bordeaux blends are world-class

Sauvignon Blanc (SB) is the flagship varietal of New Zealand.  Both SB and New Zealand catapulted to fame, hand in hand, in the 1990’s.  There is something inherently and unmistakably likable about this SB.  The varietal’s citrus and tropical notes, mixed with zesty aromas and tastes of freshly mowed grass, make it a compelling wine for easy summertime drinking.  SB’s bracing acidity also make it a perfect food-friendly wine.   Although many wine geeks cut their teeth on this well-priced New Zealand SB, it should be noted that the country is no longer a one-trick-pony.  It is now producing several world-class wines.

While SB today accounts for nearly 75% of New Zealand’s vineyard plantings, the remaining 25% has seen a significant change since the millennium.  Pinot Noir is the new darling child of New Zealand.  The second most widely planted grape, Pinot Noir, has skyrocketed to fame in just the last ten years.  Top bottles of Kiwi Pinot can be magnificent gems.  With red Burgundies now commanding astronomic prices, many are turning to New Zealand’s well-crafted wines for a Pinot fix.

Chardonnay, the most planted wine grape prior to the SB explosion, is now the third most planted grape in New Zealand.   Like Pinot Noir, the country’s top examples of Chardonnay are also superlative, and considerably easier on the wallet than a white Burgundy, or for that matter a top Chardonnay from Napa.

Bordeaux-style blends are also ratcheting up the New Zealand ante for outstanding wines that can compete on the world stage.  Unique terroirs such as the Gimlett Gravel soils of Hawke’s Bay are giving these Cabernet-Merlot based wines some important bragging rights. 

The harvest in New Zealand is now underway.  How about hosting a southern hemisphere harvest party as a way of warming up cold February?   Refer to my blog of January 24 for first-class wines from the North Island.  For the South Island, consider these stunning wines which are all imported into the US:
  • Fromm Clayvin Chardonnay ($50)
  • Fromm Pinot Noir ($40)
  • Greywacke SB Wild Ferment ($30)
  • Valli Bannockburn Pinot ($45)

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