Wines of the Long White Cloud

POSTED ON 15/02/2014

Confessing a general immunity to the hype normally generated by wine PR, I have to admit that New Zealand is the exception that proves the rule. At last month’s overview of the 2013 vintage, I found myself full of admiration for this relatively small wine country, whose vineyard area covers a mere quarter of that occupied by Bordeaux. Small , of course, can be perfectly formed, and while perhaps not perfect, New Zealand’s compact size, in conjunction with its maritime climate and zest for wine quality wine, has seen it become the first and only wine country to break the £7 a bottle barrier.

Sauvignon blanc still accounts for three-fifths of the vineyard area of 34,270 hectares. 2013 was a generally excellent year for New Zealand. The concentration and restraint of many of the 2013s over the cooler vintage 2012s brings a refined, almost sancerre-like quality to much of the wine without any off-puttingly pungent assertiveness. Many of the best are on the water, but it’s worth noting that the elderfloral, mouthwateringly ripe, gooseberryish 2013 Yealands Sauvignon Blanc is due on shelf now, down from £9.99 to £7.49, Sainsbury’s, while the intensely exuberant green bean and gooseberryish 2013 Villa Maria Wairau Reserve Sauvignon Blanc is also here, £13.99, buy two = £10.99 Majestic.

From a one-grape country two decades ago, New Zealand has evolved into a country of wine diversity. Its chardonnays are relatively unsung because of the worldwide competition, but it produces some of the best, as you’ll know if you try a superbly rich and complex, meursault-like Ata Rangi 2011 Craighall Chardonnay, £27.99 - £31.99, New Zealand House of Wine, The Wine Reserve, Noel Young. Aromatic grapes, which include riesling, pinot gris, gewürztraminer, and latterly even grüner veltliner, have now taken over from chardonnay, accounting for more than one in every ten hectares planted. Try the delicately off-dry kabinett style of the lime-zesty 2011 Greywacke Riesling, £18.95 - £20.99, Flagship Wines. Colchester Wine, and you’ll see why.

In reds, syrah now matches cabernet sauvignon in quality thanks to the discovery of Hawkes Bay’s suitability for the variety. The 2012 Elephant Hill Syrah, for instance, £18.95 - £21.99, Hedonism, Selfridges, is a magnificently spicy, peppery red that wouldn’t disgrace Côte Rôtie in the northern Rhône. But it’s in pinot noir that New Zealand has made the greatest strides towards the finest that red Burgundy can offer. You get some idea of the value with the mulberryish 2012 Ribbonwood Pinot Noir, £14, Oddbins, the raspberryish 2012 Gladstone Vineyard Jealous Sisters Pinot Noir £11.49, All About Wine, the toasty oak and raspberry-scented 2012 Carrick Unrivalled Pinot Noir, £14.50, Great Western Wine, and the spicily fragrant, pure mulberryish 2011 Craggy Range Te Muna Road Pinot Noir, £22.50-99, Majestic, Waitrose.

Something for The WeekendSomething for The Weekend

Something For the Weekend 15 February 2013

Night In

2012 Bodegas Manzano Mas de Victor Graciano

Made entirely from the distinctive Graciano grape, there’s a pepper-spicy aromatic element to this youthful bright rioja whose vibrant blackberry and damson fruitiness is softened by a stylish touch of smoky, vanilla oak. £8.99, Sainsbury's.

Dinner Party

2012 Steitz Trocken, Rheinhessen.

This is a pale, mouthwateringly fresh dry German riesling with lively citrus aromas enhanced by a refreshing spritz and a squeeze of juicy, bitter lemon flavour and green apple bite. £13, Chix & Buck, Brixton (; 02033021617).

Splash Out

2010 Escarpment Pinot Noir Te Rehua, Martinborough

From Larry ‘Mr. New Zealand Pinot Noir’ McKenna, this appetisingly fresh, raspberry scented Kiwi pinot noir delivers a delightful mouthful of summer pudding red fruits with spicy oak bringing a silky dimension of texture. £30, Marks & Spencer.

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