Surprises from New Zealand

Other than sauvignon blanc and pinot noir, its regions offer wines with subtle yet distinct differences, says DAVE MCINTYRE

Published Thu, Apr 3, 2014 · 10:00 PM
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MUCH of the fun in wine exploration is drilling down into geographical distinctions, from country to region, then appellation and finally vineyard site. Think about using Google Earth: from a moon's-eye view of North America, we can quickly close in on a major landmark or our own house, discerning details that are invisible in the larger picture. The same is true with wine.

Take New Zealand, for instance. When we think of that country's wine, what comes to mind first is its sauvignon blanc: grassy, somewhat aggressive, with racy acidity. But look beyond that and you'll find pinot noir, New Zealand's second-most important wine. And there are others.

If you pay attention to labels, you've noticed the name Marlborough; it's the country's most important wine region, at the northern end of the South Island. It's a good benchmark to compare with other regions. Martinborough, on the North Island, produces sauvignon blanc that tends to be riper. Even farther north, around Hawke's Bay, cabernet sauvignon and syrah vines predominate. Central Otago, the mountainous land of hobbits and orcs on the South Island, turns out earthy and rugged pinot noir. From the initial wide-angle view of one dominant wine variety, we've discovered a div…

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