Finding value down under
February 1, 2008
With the Euro at almost $1.50, the old reliable European wine values are becoming increasingly expensive. Unfortunately, the wines of California have also gone through the roof with the loosening of pressure of European competition so it leaves American wine lovers to find new sources of great wines at reasonable prices. For this I have begun turning to the wines of New Zealand.
New Zealand is one of the world’s top wine regions marked initially by the quality and relative value of their Sauvignon Blanc. Sauvignon Blanc is initially from the Bordeaux and Loire regions of France where it is often associated with herbal flavors with underlying fruitful expression. In New Zealand this grape takes on a mind of its own. In its best examples it screams of tropical fruit such as passion fruit, grapefruit, and pineapple. The prime region for these stunning whites is the "Certified Origin" of the South Island’s Marlborough region where the gravelly soil and dry sunsoaked climate make perfect conditions for the Sauvignon Blanc grape. The best part is the value of these wines many of them coming in under $20. The ’06 Dog Point Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc for $19 is one of the cleanest and most expressive examples I have run into.
New Zealand is more of course than just Sauvignon Blanc. The Central Otago CO has become the South Island’s homeland for great Pinot Noir. Pinot is a very variable grape that adapts to its environment. Here the wines lean more toward an earthier tradition than say in the Santa Barbara region of California where they lean toward a more fruit-focused style. Sharing some similarities to Marlborough climatically, this region differs in that the soil composition is more nutrient rich and is better suited for Pinot. The ’05 Brancott Pinot Noir Reserve for $19 is one of the best Pinot values in the state.
New Zealand can also produce great Riesling, Cab, and Chard, but in my experience none as distinctly unusual as the Pinots and the Sauv Blancs. Happy hunting.
Zev Rovine is the sommelier and resident cheese monger at the Spotted Frog Bookstore Cafe and Wine Bar where he teaches weekly wine classes. His wine education comes from the American Sommelier Association in New York City. He tries his very best not to spill the pinot on the bestseller section. If you have any wine queries or comments, he is easily contacted via e-mail at email@example.com .