New Zealand Wines: The Two Best Bets
Written by Jennifer Jordan
Filed Under: Wine Regions
Every wine-producing nation has a specialty. From nations good at producing Cabernet to those who excel in Chardonnay, from those who are excellent makers of Semillon to those who know the quality of their Shiraz is a sure thing, many nations have a wine that they make best. For New Zealand, two wines can be considered the "special" Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc. Putting many grapes in the baskets of these two wines, New Zealand relies on their excellence to keep the wine industry continually prospering.
Pinot Noir is a light-colored red wine with hints of berries, plums, cherries, and tomato flavors. On occasion, the taste of earth or wood may sometimes seep in. While it goes well with the typical food fitted for red wines - including red meat, creamy sauces, and spicy seasonings - Pinot Noir is more adaptable than other red wines and also compliments both chicken and pork.
Pinot Noir is a bit of a high maintenance wine, relying on a grape that rolls its eyes and huffs sarcastically whenever its asked to ripen. It quite simply is hard to cultivate. Many nations, however, believe that the difficulty in planting is trumped by the finished product.
Pinot Noir is most famous for being French; the wineries of France are particularly gifted in this type of wine. But, New Zealand is close behind, frightening the French bottles of Pinot Noir and causing them to wee wee unexpectedly in their bottles.
Red wine and New Zealand, because New Zealand does not have a high amount of sunshine, initially seemed like a poor pairing. But, after a successful run with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in the Auckland region, the two entities proved to be an adequate combo. Once Pinot Noir entered, the combination went from adequate to wonderful.
A type of Pinot Noir soon flourished in the Canterbury region, making Canterbury the province where it found its first New Zealand home. Martinborough, located on the south end of the North Island, was the next place Pinot Noir took off. For a decade, the vineyards of this region produced Pinot Noir laden with flavor and complexity.
Central Otago was eventually given a trial run at producing Pinot Noir. This trial run was offered in part because of Central Otago's reputation of producing great fruit. While Central Otago was originally overlooked as a region because of its very southern location, the surrounding mountain range helped increase the temperature variations among seasons. This benefited production of the grape. The latest area to adopt Pinot Noir is Waitaki, located on the border between Otago and Canterbury.
On the other end of the color spectrum is New Zealand's most famous white wine, Sauvignon Blanc. This wine is responsible for the wine glasses of the world turning towards New Zealand and asking for a sample. A green skin grape, Sauvignon Blanc is typically described as crisp, dry and fresh with flavors that can vary from leafy to fruity. It goes well with fish, cheese and even sushi. It also doesn't benefit much from aging and is typically drank young.
New Zealand is thought to be the ideal home for Sauvignon Blanc, a virtual headquarters in a globe of possibilities. This is particularly true of the Marlborough region. Montana Wines first laid claim to this region by producing Sauvignon Blanc in 1979. Located in the north tip of the South Island, the Marlborough region proved to be an area where Sauvignon Blanc absolutely flourished.
The decade of the 1990's saw Sauvignon Blanc make a name for itself in New Zealand. Not only did the lands of Marlborough evolve into vineyards at an expedited rate, but New Zealand finally found a wine they were proud to label theirs. Producing bottles high in quality and low in expense, many wineries of New Zealand - Montana, Hunters, and Cloudy Bay Vineyards - began producing what many people assert are the greatest Sauvignon Blanc's in the world.
It is the flavors of New Zealand's Sauvignon Blanc that leaves it superior. Filled with the taste of green vegetables - green beans, teas, limes, and herbs - as well as sweet flavors - mango, and passion fruit - this wine tastes like, and is rivaled by, no other.
New Zealand is a country with wine that will only get better as time goes on. These two types are just the beginning of a culture that could soon be known more for wine than for kiwi. Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc aren't the only wines in New Zealand's cellar, but they are the wines inside the trophy case.