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 …
Some of the producers that have appeared in my wines of the year series thus far were perhaps not surprising to see: Ata Rangi, Greywacke, Rippon and co. have a track record for a good reason. But many of my non-wine friends don’t want to spend $50 on a bottle of wine, even if I …
With 2015 drawing to a close, it’s time to reflect on a year’s drinking.
Thankfully, I’ve enjoyed a lot of bloody good wine this year thanks to three cracking vintages on the trot: the growing conditions in 2013, 2014 and 2015 made it much easier to make good – and great – wine in New Zealand; …
2014 was an unusual year for reviewing wines. Being pregnant for the first half of the year and then having a mini person to feed meant large scale tastings were off the cards. However, I’ve still managed to get through a heck of a lot of delicious – and a lot of why did they …
New Zealand may be a country of dairy farmers but Kiwi wine exports now earn more than butter. And kiwifruit. But it was dairy products that were front of mind for the country’s wine trade association when it penned its latest Annual Report.
Wine has become New Zealand’s eighth largest export earner, growing in value by NZ$1 billion over the past 10 years and volumes are expected to rise 30 million litres to 220m litres next year, according to a report from the country’s Ministry for Primary Industries.
You won’t be surprised to hear that Sauvignon Blanc dominates exports …
The world’s vineyard has fallen by almost 6% in the first decade of the millennium, according to a new database of wine grapes and regions published by the University of Adelaide.
But in the face of the overwhelming decline, the number of hectares planted in the U.S. has risen by 30% between 2000 and 2010, 40% …
New Zealand’s national wine body, NZ Winegrowers, has published its annual report and the chair’s opening statement always proves to be a mine of information from the vital statistics in production and sales, to the mood of the country’s wine producers.
This year that mood is cautiously optimistic. There’s plenty of reason for optimism – export value has hit a record high of NZ$1.21 billion and botled exports are up while bulk has fallen. Admittedly, export volumes are down 3 percent but that can largely be explained by the fact there wasn’t a whole lotta wine after a small harvest in 2012.
But the cautious tone in the chair’s report cannot be denied. There’s a fear that we’ll repeat the mistakes of the past, failing to learn from the glut caused by the bumper 2008 harvest.
“It is vital growers and wineries and the industry as a whole, learn from the struggles of the recent past,” says Steve Green, on the first page of his chair’s report.
Hooray, things are going well, but don’t mess it up by making too much wine, he warns. “Optimism should never be unbridled but rather should be market led and fact based.”
It’s no surprise that Sauvignon Blanc remains the country’s major export: the variety accounts for 84.5 percent of all exports and Marlborough’s 18,000ha of Sauvignon Blanc is “more than double the largest Sauvignon Blanc region in France,” the Loire Valley. Yet, some local producers seem intent on discrediting it. “Bitch diesel” and “cougar juice” are just two of the terms, winemakers like to call their bread and butter (see my blog “The Sauvignon Blanc Smear Campaign” from March)
Green, who also owns Central Otago winery, Carrick, clearly feels this negativity surrounding Sauvignon needs to be nipped in the bud, reminding its members that unity and reputation are assets that the country needs to protect. The country is too small to have in-fighting.
He takes the platform to remind the country’s producers of the importance of this aromatic variety. “Without the heft of Sauvignon Blanc, the fight for other styles to establish a ‘New Zealand’ category in the global trade would be so much harder.”
Of course, the country doesn’t want to be accused of being a one-trick pony: “The wine world values the consistency of our flagship wine but it also craves diversity. And in order to be taken seriously at the highest levels New Zealand needs to offer prestigious examples of the most highly regarded wine styles including full-bodied reds and Pinot Noir.”
Certainly, Pinot Noir has made its mark on the wine world but there are world-class Rieslings, Chardonnays, Syrahs and Bordeaux blends that most consumers have yet to realise exist.
France named the owner of luxury goods company LVMH, Bernard Arnault, as the country’s most wealthy in last week’s publication of the annual rich list.
He’s the one that tried to do a ‘Gerard Depardieu’ and get another passport in a bid to avoid France’s 75% tax on millionaires. Perhaps Arnault could play a starring role in upcoming movie Green Card 2?!
While I’m no fan of a tax evader, the latest release from the LVMH-owned Cloudy Bay in Marlborough deserves a mention.
The 2010 Te Wahi is the winery’s first attempt at making Pinot Noir using fruit sourced from Central Otago and it’s decent booze.
While Te Wahi means ‘Our Place’, the fruit is sourced from a few places that are pretty far away from Cloudy Bay’s HQ in Marlborough. It’s actually a blend of three Central Otago sub-regions: Bannockburn, Bendigo and Lowburn and the wine speaks more of Central Otago than it does any of the three sub-regions.
The 2010 vintage was a stunner. The start of the season was cooler than usual, which led to small berry size and lower bunch weights, which would later produce wines with good depth of colour, powerful tannins (on the Pinot spectrum) and fruit concentration.
From January through to harvest, warm weather prevailed and the critical period of March and April provided settled conditions with little disease pressure and the luxury of picking when it suited.
The finished product is very impressive for an inaugural vintage, which is set for release in the U.S. in the coming months.
“Perfumed with vibrant red and black fruits, layers of violets and a distinct note of green herbs – thyme – and a puff of dustiness.
“Pure fruit with good density on the mid-palate yet remains delicate and silky.
“High level of concentration suggest low yields. Fine-grained tannin yet relatively powerful for Pinot with a mouthwatering level of fresh acidity. Oak is harmonious, well integrated and very subtle considering it is 40% new. A very complete and harmonious wine. Ready to drink now for its fruity appeal but the combination of fruit concentration, fresh acid and moderate tannin should see this continue to evolve nicely over the next 4-6 years ” 93/100
“Brightness of fruit and acidity is the signature of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc,” says Brancott Estate’s winemaker Patrick Materman.
This signature style has put the New Zealand region on the world wine map but its makers aren’t stupid: they saw what happened to Australian Chardonnay and it wasn’t pretty.
While Materman admits that “99%” of Brancott’s production will continue to be the exuberant thiol-driven style we are familiar with, Kiwi producers have been experimenting with different techniques in both the vineyard and winery in an effort to retain our interest in the longer term.
“Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc has been about clean fermentation, hands off [winemaking], stainless steel, cultured yeast, with very little winemaker influence,” explains Materman.
“The movement in the last few years has been how do we add extra elements of interest, including palate weight, a textural element, complex sulphides.”
And how to do that? The use of oak has been on the increase since Sacred Hill launched Sauvage in 1992 and Cloudy Bay released its first Te Koko four years later. Producers started with small barrels – and many continue to do so – but larger formats including puncheons and older oak seem to be more compatible with this aromatic varietal.
Wild ferments are also considered to be an important contributor when it comes to adding extra layers of savoury complexity. Malolactic fermentation and lees work can also play a large role stylistically on the final wine. The malolactic leads to a fall in acidity and linearity while lees stirring adds palate weight and texture. These are stylistic decisions the winemaker must take: do you want to produce a linear style or a more voluptuous Chardonnay look-alike?
There’s also another factor involved in creating a more complex style of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc: money.
“Marlborough stands out in the world stage but we have not commanded high prices for the wines.”
The question, Materman asks, is: “How do we command aspirational prices?”
Unfortunately for Sauvignon Blanc, it isn’t a varietal that commands high prices – Didier Dagueneau and notable Pessac Leognan estates excepted.
Good luck to Brancott Estate, which is charging $80 for its new Sauvignon Blanc, Chosen Rows. Apparently it’s a hand-sell but there will need to be some pretty intense arm twisting to persuade customers to spend that sort of money on a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, no matter how good it is.