World of Wine: New Zealand reds comforting on cold night
Thinking about where summer temperatures exist at this time of year, I came up with one of my favorite countries -- New Zealand. It is a magic faraway place from the rest of the world's troubles that my wife and I were going to visit when I was w...
Thinking about where summer temperatures exist at this time of year, I came up with one of my favorite countries - New Zealand. It is a magic faraway place from the rest of the world's troubles that my wife and I were going to visit when I was working in Saudi Arabia, but it never came about.
New Zealand is a country of wonderful red wines, awesome sauvignon blanc and excellent chardonnay presentations. While it is a big hitter in the wine world these days with pinot noir, merlot and shiraz, it wasn't always that way. Here is a little history before going into specifics on wine selections.
Most readers are familiar with the Prohibition America went through when the 18th Amendment was enacted in January 1920. It turned out to be a folly, with the government cutting off a major source of tax income and essentially criminalizing millions of Americans. New Zealand had an enactment that was even more stringent than our temperance and prohibition.
Wine could not be sold in shops until the 1950s and not in restaurants until the 1960s and, to top it off, not a drop after 10 at night. Finally, in the 1980s in a place called Cloudy Bay, a stunning sauvignon blanc was introduced to the world with an impact that put the country as a world competitor in the wine industry.
Like any other country engaging in the world market, various regions are known for particular wine varietals. The Gisborne region is known for its chardonnay; Hawke's Bay is the second largest region in the country and one of the warmest. This, along with the sandy and gravelly soil, make it a great region for growing merlot and cabernet in the style of Bordeaux, as well as some shiraz.
Auckland is a location for many wine companies producing quaffable chardonnay and cabernet blends. Martinborough, located on the southern end of New Zealand's north island, produces some attention-getting pinot noir. Finally, on New Zealand's south island, the Central Otago is where the cool climate and red earth make some great pinot noir.
At a tasting hosted by sommelier Jean Taylor, I got to sample two very tasty wines.
A sauvignon blanc from Boulder Bank winery in Marlborough has a zesty, fruity, wake-up-your mouth taste that begs you to keep sipping more. It is a steal at about $16 a bottle.
Another one was a pinot noir from Yealands Estate Single Vineyard. This is a wine worthy of the critical acclaim given by Wine Spectator: "Plush and supple, brimming with flavors of raspberry coulis, cherry, rosemary, dried rose petal, forest floor and smoky black tea. Harmonious, focused and pure, with terrific persistence on the finish, where pepper and citrus peel hints chime in."
Somehow the red wines from this southern hemisphere country are very inviting to me on these cold, wintry nights. An eventual visitation to this fascinating and friendly country is still on my bucket list.
Note: The "hot toddy" I mentioned last week is my own invention using port wine. Every restaurant will likely have their own version of this comforting concoction. Don't be afraid to experiment sensibly to find your favorite.
Ron Smith, a retired NDSU Extension horticulturist, writes weekly about his love of wine and its history. Readers can reach him at email@example.com .