Emmanuel Tresmontant - 2011-08-19
From 9th September to 23rd October New Zealand will be holding the Rugby World Cup for the second time in its history. Whether you’re making the journey to watch your team or staying at home in front of your TV, why not make the most of the occasion by sampling some of the country’s exceptional wines with intense and exotic tastes.
Wines celebrated in Britain, yet ignored throughout Europe...
For Gerard Basset, the Franco-British World's Best Sommelier 2010, "the vineyards of New Zealand are, without doubt, the New World’s pearl. I just spent two weeks there, and I was amazed by the beauty of the landscape, the hospitality of the people and the elegance of the wines. I was excited by at least two dozen estates that are good enough to be included on my restaurant’s menu. "
As the last to arrive on the international scene with a small vineyard area of only 33,000 hectares, New Zealand has two major advantages: its volcanic soils that give intensity to its wines and a cool climate that fosters an attractive level of acidity. New Zealand wines bear no resemblance to Australian wines as over a thousand miles separate the two nations. Its climate is much colder and the grapes ripen more slowly. Due to an Indian summer they nevertheless manage to soak up the sun and can produce strong wines exceeding 14 per cent proof. This unique balance between freshness and opulence is what first gave New Zealand wines their reputation back in the early 1990s.
Outstanding Sauvignon Blancs
In those days it was mostly the Sauvignon Blancs, from the Marlborough region, that first created a sensation. In Britain, experts like Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson showed their enthusiasm for their crystalline, smoky and exotic aromas. The famous Cloudy Bay
estate, founded in Marlborough in 1985 by the Australians David and Kevin Judd Hohnen, has, over the years, become a Sauvignon global standard. Now owned by the LVMH group, "the estate seems to have chosen quantity over quality," laments Paul Tracy, an expert on New Zealand wines and founder of Fine Wine World
. Without being over exciting, Cloudy Bay is nevertheless a good, elegant and stylish wine to drink young.
If you’d like to try a New Zealand Organic Sauvignon which is both mineral and profound, see if you can find a bottle produced by Michael Seresin, a former filmmaker and photographer who has also been based in Marlborough since the early 1990s. This is a true delight!
Finely crafted Bordeaux varieties
The Waiheke Island, in the Auckland region, is a place where Bordeaux grape varieties can ripen to perfection. This is where you find one of the nation’s greatest red wines, Stonyridge Larose, developed at the foot of Mount Ostend in the middle of an olive grove. It is produced from five Bordeaux grape varieties (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot); this rich and powerful wine has a phenomenal substance which places it on a par with the best Bordeaux classified premiers crus. "At a tasting held in Australia,” says Gerard Basset, “the Stonyridge Larose 2006 came first ahead of Chateau Latour and Chateau Lafite Rothschild: a true recognition for New Zealand!" (It costs between £80 and £90 a bottle)
Less complex but more affordable, the Waipara West estate in the province of Canterbury (near Christchurch) produces spicy, tannic wines made from Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot (between £8 and £14 a bottle from Fine Wine World).
Exceptional Pinot Noirs
More fleshy and sensual than Burgundy Pinot Noir, the New Zealand version can be drunk very young and often arouses the experts’ enthusiasm.
For Gerard Basset, the list of estates producing outstanding Pinot Noir is abundant: "Ata Rangi and Dry River in Marlborough, Bell Hill near Canterbury, Neudorf in Nelson..." Felton Road in the mountainous region of Central Otago, enjoys a continental climate and produces a world-renowned Pinot Noir with a dark red colour, a ripe nose and a silky palate. Antoine Pétrus (Meilleur Ouvrier de France and sommelier at the restaurant Lasserre) confirms it as "An exceptional wine, which unfolds on the palate with flavours of coffee and chocolate. "(47 euros Caves Augé in Paris.)
Where can you buy New Zealand wines?
TerraVina Hotel in Southampton
Fine Wine World
Vins du Monde
For further information: