Find the zing in New Zealand
IN THE LATE 1980s, Sauvignon Blanc put New Zealand on the world wine map and we've taken it into our hearts, revelling in its 'zing'. It's known for its pungently aromatic green capsicum, gooseberry and lush passion-fruit character, particularly when from Marlborough in South Island, which represents more than 80pc of all plantings.
New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is predominantly cold-fermented in stainless steel to retain as much of this 'wakey, wakey' essence as possible. But, a few years ago, winemakers started to play with oak, 'wild' yeasts and 'batonnage' -- stirring the lees to make more complex wines, and many producers have one of these in their portfolio.
Given all this Sauvignon fever, you would have thought Chardonnay would have passed New Zealand by. Not so. The warmer regions in the north typically yield full to medium-bodied wines with round, rich flavours, while the cooler South Island regions tend to produce medium to light-bodied styles with greater acidity, minerality and fresh citrus flavours.
Pinot Noir has been one of the latter-day glories of New Zealand. As its winemakers get to grips with this grape, so New Zealand Pinot Noir starts to show the fine tannins and elegance that evoke comparison with Burgundy.
New Zealand's next big thing could be Syrah, and here the wine has been likened to the produce of the Northern Rhone, with wine writers extolling the violet, plum and savoury black-pepper nuances.
Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot partnerships are common, often with some Malbec thrown in. Riesling and Pinot Gris/Grigio have also made their mark. The former range from bone dry and steely to luscious and sweet and, with age, develop toasted honey, marzipan and kerosene characters akin to their European counterparts.
Last week, I gave you a list of Dublin's winners in the Off-Licence of the Year competition. Alas, Noffla sent me in error a list of last year's winners, so red faces all round. Anyhow, Off-Licence of the Year 2011 is the excellent family-run Sweeney's of Harts Corner, Dublin 11, a stronghold of wine on the northside since 1955. Sweeney's carries a good selection of New Zealand wines.
Noffla Wine of the Year, and Sweeney's own wine club Wine of the Year, is the Museum Real, selling for around €19.95 from Sweeney's and other good wine merchants.