Why do we love New Zealand wines so much? Well, not all of their wines, but we most definitely have an affinity to Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc and to a lesser extent, Central Otago Pinot Noir.
I’ve pondered this topic greatly over the last 17 years, 12 of which I lived, worked and studied in New Zealand. It’s during this time that we all witnessed the popularity and rise of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. Could it be our joint sibling status with the mother land, England?
Marlborough Sav/Blanc was but a mere blimp on an Australian punters radar before it gained a cult following in the UK; the demand this created saw increased production in NZ which equated to lower production costs and cheaper import avenues into Australia. This same craving for New Zealand’s Savvy’s in the UK, happened in Australia; remember that oaky, buttery Chardonnay of the past? “Sunshine in a bottle” as referred to in the documentary; Chateau Chunder: A Wine Revolution.
On the back of this revelation of Australian Chardonnay’s in the UK; every bar, restaurant and bottle store in Australia was absorbed in the craze. Yet we outgrew the taste to the point Chardonnay got a bad reputation, and even though Chardonnay styles have matured and are the best they’ve been in a generation, the name has become somewhat bastardised.
Almost ten years on from the onset of the Savvy craze, why hasn’t this happened to Marlborough? Quite the contrary, we still can’t get enough of it! Is it a love for our little brother’s success? Possibly; given our cross-Tasman relationship with sport.
Living in NZ, I often witnessed firsthand how much our Kiwi neighbours hate us in the international grandstand; forever supporting anyone who plays Australia, yet we in Australia, will barrack for NZ against all other contenders, bar our Nation obviously. Or could it be that the product, Marlborough Sav/Blanc is just that good?
Adelaide Hills in South Australia is our Region that can produce Sauvignon Blanc grapes to a degree that can compete with the seasons and soils that aid the intensity of Marlborough, but it’s not enough. Or is it that those New Zealand Savvy’s are too intense? Decide for yourself during these cooler months by trying a ‘worked’ style like our ’12 Copper Sauvignon Blanc or perhaps a worked, ‘European style’ New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc from great producers; the likes of Hanz Herzog or Fromm. Serve it at room temperature so these cold Autumn/Winter temperatures don’t scare the whites out of you.
New Zealand Central Otago Pinot Noir on the other hand, found its place in our hearts, hand in hand, with their Australian counterparts from Tasmania, Mornington Peninsula and the Yarra at roughly the same time. The taste evolvement was almost synchronised to an ANZAC palate. This Winter keep an eye out for Charteris Pinot Noir’s & Maude Pinot Noir’s, both of which have an Australian, New Zealand influence with the winemakers. Or for a big bang for buck, the current release 2011 Nepenthe Pinot Noir.
I doubt we will ever understand our relationship with New Zealand wines, but keep in mind when perusing the shelves or wine lists at your local, we can and do compete. Don’t always rely on a safety; something you know and love. Branch out and give both countries a fair go, it’s part of being Australian.
Wines to try
Tempus Two 2012 Copper Series Sauvignon Blanc, RRP - $21.99
Hans Herzog Sauvignon Blanc 'sur lie' 2010, RRP - $47.95
Fromm La Strada Sauvignon Blanc 2011, RRP - $34.99
Charteris Winter Vineyard Pinot Noir 2010, RRP - $65.00
Maude Pinot Noir 2011, RRP – $34.00
Last blog post: Autumn Wines
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