10 things I learned in New Zealand
Six years, one month and 13 days after landing in New Zealand, I said goodbye to the wonderful warmth of Auckland in January; afternoons spent on the beach digging sandcastles swapped for muddy puddles and early morning windscreen scraping in North Yorkshire.
My Kiwi husband is delighted.
We’ve moved back to be closer to my family – free babysitting is certainly a tick – and for work reasons. But it’s not goodbye New Zealand, it’s see you later.
So what did I learn while I was in New Zealand? A lot. People don’t wear shoes to the supermarket, cheese is very expensive and the domestic airport security is fabulously lax!
What about the wine? Here’s 10 things I didn’t know when I landed in Aotearoa:
1. The industry knows how to throw a good party. No, make that a great party. And now I’ve just found out that industry conference Pinot 2017 has Tool frontman (and wine producer) Maynard James Keyne as one of its key speakers. Sam Neill’s afterparty gig, maybe?
2. New Zealand Syrah is still one of its best assets. If only the rest of the world would realise…
3. Don’t speak of the Savalanche. It’s like saying Voldemort. Oh, and don’t call Sauvignon Blanc bitch diesel or cougar juice either. Some producers have referred to this white variety, the country’s best wine export, in such endearing terms. They got in a bit of trouble!!!
4. Marlborough’s capital Blenheim has no traffic lights and was formerly called Beavertown, a name which I’m sure would attract more tourists to the town than boring old Blenheim;
5. Waipara remains the most overlooked region in the country for Pinot Noir but don’t confuse that with Wairarapa, Waiheke, Waitaki (yes, it’s mind boggling for people who don’t live in NZ);
6. The popularity of Pinot Gris continues to baffle me. Seriously, dudes, drink New Zealand Chardonnay instead. It is mighty fine from Auckland (eg: Kumeu River) down to Central Otago (eg: Felton Road);
7. NZ producers and retailers don’t blink at promoting their wines using tasting notes they paid the reviewer an ‘admin fee’ for. Wrong in so many ways. The rest of the world is astonished that this happens;
8. New Zealand Albarino is surprisingly good and there’s an increasing number of producers making it. I think it shows more promise than Gruner Veltliner at this early stage. Look out for Coopers Creek, Mount Edward, Matawhero…;
9. The vines and the winemakers are all maturing, equals the wines are better than ever. There’s still a lot of supermarket brands that I’ve never heard of since moving back to England but don’t be distracted by that entry-level hum. New Zealand can compete with the best of the fine wine world but at the bottom of the earth, it mustn’t forget that its competition is increasingly fierce;
10. Lamb, Lorde and the All Blacks are not the country’s best exports.
Until the next time, New Zealand. Stay in touch!