It’s Summer in the Southern Hemisphere and I have gone back to my WSET course notes, which happen to alight upon the New World and a common grape variety. In reading my revision notes I noticed that New Zealand has only 1% of the world’s trade in wine and yet has earned itself a section of its own on our supermarket shelves and a place on our dinner tables. A remarkable feat of perseverance, hard work, ingenuity and first class marketing.
The ability to reinvent oneself appears to be a natural asset of the antipodean’s lot and that includes its larger cousin Australia. I mention reinvention because up to the 1930s New Zealand suffered disastrous disease, overproduction and competition from its boisterous neighbour across the Tasman Sea. All this politics and the sad litany of poor choices changed after the late 1960s when Sauvignon Blanc and other international varieties found their place literally and geographically in New Zealand’s fertile terrain. After the bumper harvest of 2008, the world could no longer ignore a new kind of Sancerre, grown in the New World and super-charged in flavour, freshness and fruit.
I first tried Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc as it happens in the cellars of Averys of Bristol Ltd, who perchance were the first importers to the UK of New Zealand varietal Sauvignon Blanc wines back in the 1970s – that’s how long it takes to establish a brand! The wine I have chosen is from Marlborough, it’s Peter Yealands vineyard in the Awatere Valley (location below), described as the country’s most coastal vineyard, planted on rugged land that ‘was once seen as unsuitable’, with ‘vines that battle against the elements to give small thick-skinned berries, and a wonderful rich and intense flavour’ – doesn’t this sound a bit like the All Black rugby team in action?
Yealands Estate, New Zealand
There are a lot of premium Sauvignon Blanc wines produced like Cloudy Bay and Villa Maria but I like Peter Yealands’ openness and flavour, managing to combine classic gooseberry, capsicum, cut grass with richer stone fruit and intense guava fruit. It is available at Sainsburys and good value too so worth a visit to stock up for winter nights. You will be supporting the agricultural sustainability movement by supping this gem of a wine. The vineyard was the first in New Zealand to be recognised as fully sustainable viticulture and as having a zero carbon footprint.
They also bottle their wine in the UK, sending it in bulk by container ship half way across the world. Is this a good thing or not - furthering global warming by having all these ships chugging around the oceans? I would argue against as the space saved would probably be taken up by some gas-guzzling Asian super-bike or sweat-shop produced clothes and I wouldn’t want this lovely wine to be lost to us; it’s wonderful fruit of the earth, connecting Europe with those hardy commonwealth farmers to celebrate a special taste that conveys a bit of the coastal wind-swept ‘terroir’ down under, which is altogether refreshing.
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