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New Zealand – More than just Hobbits and Sweaty Socks

New Zealand – More than just Hobbits and Sweaty Socks

New Zealand. The tiny country that has so much to be proud of – The Lord Of The Rings, The Flight of The Conchords, fish and chips, meat pies, not being a part of Australia. But, in the world of wine, there is one thing that New Zealand is most famous for – Sauvignon Blanc. And while, as a Kiwi I am proud of that, let’s not forget that New Zealand has so much much more to offer. We make some of the best Pinot Noir in the world, our sparkling wine is off the chart, and our Chardonnay would make even the biggest haters weep at the pure beauty of it.

There’s no denying it –  Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, or Savvy as it is affectionately known at home, is the first thing many people think of in terms of NZ wines. It’s gooseberry/tropical fruitiness; balanced by aromas of freshly cut grass, bell pepper and racing acidity, have made these wines some of the most terroir driven and recognizable in the world. They smell like cat pee, sweaty socks, Juicy Fruit gum; and wine critics and consumers alike have been in love with them since the mid 80s.

According to the 2018 NZ Winegrowers Annual Report, Sauvignon Blanc accounts for 77% of New Zealand’s total white wine production, and 61% of the total planted production area. These are very significant numbers, and it shows, as Sauvignon Blanc dominates the mainstream exported NZ wine market. If you were to walk down the wine isle of any grocery store, chances are you might see several New Zealand brands such as Oyster Bay, Kim Crawford or Matua – but the likelihood of seeing anything other than Sauvignon Blanc is slim.

While some of these lesser known New Zealand wines may be hard to find, they can be well worth the search. After becoming exasperated with local grocery stores, I recently purchased 6 New Zealand wines online. None of them Sauvignon Blanc. I am excited to share my thoughts of them with you in the hopes that maybe it will inspire you to try something new.

2016 Kumeu River Village Chardonnay

  • This is a killer, refreshing Chardonnay for people like me who aren’t usually fans of Chard. While there is some oaky characteristics on both the nose and palate, there is also a brightness and juiciness that is delightful. Aromas of jasmine, green apple skin and starfruit, with pear and zingy acidity on the palate. A subtle yet powerful finish.

Would 100% buy again, and show off to any and all willing to try it.

2014 Mt. Difficulty Roaring Meg Riesling, Central Otago

  • A sweeter style of Riesling, but not cloyingly. Dried apricot, lime zest and a sense of salinity come through on the nose, with hints of canned pineapple and mandarin on the finish. The acid is bright and playful, and makes this a more versatile wine.

Might not buy again, but did thoroughly enjoy this with a large slice of pumpkin pie.

2015 The Doctors’ Grüner Veltliner, Marlborough

  • YUM!! Aromas of pear, crab apple, honeyed caramel and lime are complemented by a surprising acidity, and a lot of body. Fresh and lively. Weighty yet refined, elegant and 110% chuggable.

Would purchase again without hesitation, probably by the case

NV Quartz Reef Methode Traditionnelle Brut, Central Otago

  • I love sparkling wine, and this did not disappoint. Fresh apple pie, white flowers and  citrus aromas are vibrant – the 35% Chardonnay really showing through. Hints of oatmeal cookie, lemon zest and a lovely creaminess on the palate are highlighted by pretty effervescence. For the price, this is a great Sunday brunch Bubbles that’s a little bit different from your usual Napa Mumm or Roederer.

Making this a new refrigerator staple.

2015 Innocent Bystander Pinot Noir, Central Otago

  • Move over Burgundy, there’s a new boss in town. A fantastic example of how complex and interesting Central Otago Pinots can be, while still being delicate and ethereal. A lot of dried flowers on the nose- rose petals, lavender, and some dried herbal notes. Baking spices and red cherry. The acid is bright without being too aggressive, and provides great structure to balance out some fruit and oak sweetness.

Would buy again, perfect for adult stocking stuffers for Christmas.

2016 Craggy Range Te Kahu, Gimblett Gravels

  • One of New Zealand’s most famous Bordeaux blends, from one of New Zealand’s most iconic wineries. This vintage is mostly Merlot based, with Cabernet Sauvignon , Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec. Toasted coconut, nutmeg, cola and cocoa powder hit you on the nose, but there are some pretty blackcurrant and savoury notes on the palate. The tannins are still grippy, and benefits from some aggressive glass swirlin’.

Maybe still a little young, but would purchase an older vintage without hesitation.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love Sauvignon Blanc. And I absolutely believe that the New Zealand wine industry pioneers have to be given their props for creating this unique and memorable new style of wine. BUT, we are more than just Sauvignon Blanc! Pinot Noir thrives in Central Otago, Riesling from the Waipara Valley is out of this world, and Hawkes Bay is producing some world class Bordeaux reds. The cooler climate regions such as Marlborough and Canterbury are experimenting with some exciting aromatic whites, and I’m confident that one day soon, we’ll be seeing New Zealand Albariño or Gerwürtztraminer on our grocery shelves here in the USA. But until then, I’ll have a large glass of internet-purchased NZ gems like The Doctors’ Grüner Veltliner.  And keep that screwcap bottle nearby – I’ll be wanting a second.