New Zealand is the new kid (translation: new world) on the wine block and is winning fan favorites all over the world with their two main varietals: Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc.
The Home of Lord of the Rings has a leg up on their international competition due to their location in the Southern Hemisphere and their opposing seasons allowing them to harvest, ferment and bottle their wine before their Northern Hemisphere wine brothers. In fact, NZ is home to the most easterly and southerly vines in the world.
What you need to know about New Zealand wine is that there are two islands producing grapes and the largest exporter of wine is the wine region of Marlborough. You’ve probably heard of and drunk their most notable wine producer: Cloudy Bay. Yep, that was a tasty Sauvignon Blanc, wasn’t it?
When drinking a glass of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, you may have noticed the screw top wine bottle (or not, depending on how much wine you had consumed) and probably thought: well, no wonder this bottle was only $8. Actually, it turns out the screw top is the one of the smarter trends in the wine world and is known for keeping more wine from going bad than the traditional cork. And the reason your Sauvignon Blanc was so cheap is because NZ is a newer wine making country and turning out quality wines, but they haven’t gained the notoriety of their old world wine cousins like France, Italy and Spain. Therefore, a lot of the wine made in the country is not exported, which makes a trip to New Zealand absolutely necessary in order to fully understand this wine region.
In February 2015, I had the opportunity to jet-set to the Southern Hemisphere with my trusted travel pal, Val, for a wine work trip. We soaked up as much wine as we could and can confidently report that the Kiwis know how to make wine!
Unlike California’s cattle call wine-tasting approach, in Martinborough, Val and I tasted wine one-on-one with the winemaker leading to a conversation about their passion for the region, the terrior and their wine. Our most beloved winemaker was Poppy of Poppies Winery… clearly, she liked us too as she let us shimmy behind the bar and take a photo with her (after we paid her 25 NZ, of course).
They say timing is everything and it could not have been more true because the Marlborough Wine & Food Festival was being hosted while we were visiting. Val had to attend a conference that day (see, we were really working… well, Val was) so I hopped on a plane with our new friends, Catherine and Bryn, (with whom we were staying) and spent the day lounging on the grass sipping wines and chowing on the delicious delicacies.
Since it was Valentine’s Day, Catherine and I got into the spirit… and a pickle when we asked a certain famous celebrity chef to take this photo. He questioned our request: You want me to take a photo of you two? (Read between the lines: And you don’t want me in it with you?). Nope, just the two of us (we can make it if we try…)