The wine regions of New Zealand.  Image from www.vintages.com

The Terroirist: Zealand Zeal

As far as the world of wine goes, New Zealand is quite a remarkable country. Not content to be the semi-obscure wine land that their size and climate would normally dictate, the New Zealanders decided to become internationally renowned, and not to stop until they got there.

More interesting still however, is how they chose to climb to where they are now. Rather than producing a grape they could call their own (as California has done with Zinfandel, and South Africa with Pinotage) or trying to be good at everything (the tack taken by Australia), New Zealand decided to make itself world-famous for one grape, and then expand from there (similar to what Ontario is doing by letting Icewine lead the way, but not quite the same). For New Zealand, this grape was Sauvignon Blanc, an aromatic fruit that in NZ expressed itself with lots of fresh cut grass, gooseberry and lemon characteristics. Not content with global-Sauvignon-domination, the Zealanders then turned their attention to other grapes - for reds the most notable is Pinot Noir, which is fuller and fruiter than is found in French, but still has that Burgundian earthiness that many New World examples lack.

The only downside to the New Zealand Pinots are their rarity. Luckily the LCBO is getting half a dozen different ones in this weekend; expect them to go quickly though.

And now the recommendations.

Something Red:
Seresin 'Leah' Pinot Noir 2004 (Marlborough, New Zealand) $39.95, #655167

It's pricey, I know - but it beautifully exemplifies what New Zealand Pinot is all about. While normally I prefer Central Otago, this fellow South Island wine is divine in it's own right. A light bright cherry in colour, the nose is full of herbs, plum, vanilla and barnyardy notes. In the mouth it is fatty and rich, with flavours of sour cherry, herbs, earth and plum coming to the floor. Drinking now if you can't wait, but if you give it a few more years, it'sonly going to get better still. Serve this with roast duck and you're in heaven.

Something White:
Siefried Sauvignon Blacn 2005 (Nelson, New Zealand) $18.95, #957670

Nelson is the most northerly (and smallest) of the South Island wine regions, which gives this Sauvignon plenty of sun to help it ripen. This bright golden wine is light and lively on both the nose and the tongue. The predominant aroma is herbaciousness, and the smell of freshly cut grass - typical for New Zealand - backed up my minerality and a splash of citrus. On the mouth the flavours come at you right up front, and the gooseberry, lemon, and herb notes are very evident. This wine should be drunk now, and matched with appetisers of fruit and soft goat's cheese.

Something Pink
Domaine Lafond ‘Roc-Epine' Tavel 2004 (Rhone, France) $16.95, #950709

There are always a few sure signs that summer is right around the corner: The birds are out in flight, the English start buying Pimm's, and the thoughts of a young wine geek turn to beverages of a pinkish colour. When it comes to rose wines, Tavel is always near the top of the list, and this is a great example why. A light salmon pink, and bone dry on the palate, the nose reeks of strawberries, herbs, and a touch of spice. On the palate, it is noticeably firm, with the same herbaciousness and berry notes that were found in the nose. Lovely with olive tapanade on crackers or grilled chicken.

It's going to get warmer, enjoy it!


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