New Zealand wine industry growing rapidly

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  • In 1974, Matua produced New Zealand's very first sauvignon blanc

    In 1974, Matua produced New Zealand's very first sauvignon blanc

  • A vineyard in Marlborough, located on New Zealand's South Island

    A vineyard in Marlborough, located on New Zealand's South Island


Two weeks ago I referred to comments on Californian wines that were taken from The Joys of Wine, written in the year that I joined the wine trade.

I will now share its view on New Zealand wines: “One of the few considered to be of high- enough quality to merit a place in the world market is a cabernet sauvignon made by an Australian company. Their best white is from the German hybrid called muller-thurgau.”

There is no mention of South Island, where Marlborough is situated. The book was published in 1975 and I suspect they did not know that Matua Valley had produced a small amount of sauvignon blanc the previous year.

It went on to receive numerous accolades and one review claimed that it was the first New Zealand wine to rival European quality. Today, sauvignon blanc accounts for more than 80,000 acres of vineyard — about 90 per cent of the overall total.

In 2016, 98 per cent of New Zealand’s vineyard producing area was Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand-certified — unmatched by any voluntary scheme around the world. In value, it supplies about 3.5 per cent of the world’s wine, but it is growing at a rate that most businesses would envy.

My estimate is that a little more than 8 per cent of all wine arriving here originates in New Zealand. Let’s face it, we love sauvignon blanc.

Last year, Matua 2016 Sauvignon Blanc finished 40th on the Wine Spectator Top 100, which is chosen from about 18,000 blind-tasted wines.

This is how the winery commented: “Here at Matua, sauvignon blanc is pretty special. That’s because back in 1974, we produced New Zealand’s very first sauvignon blanc. Ten years later, they were making it in Marlborough. Now, Marlborough sauvy is world-famous for its unique, fresh flavours. For this wine, we’ve chosen grapes from across Marlborough, giving you the best crisp and tropical flavours Marlborough has to offer all in one sip.”

The Wine Spectator rated it 90/100 and said: “Succulent, fleshy peach and nectarine flavours are accented by key lime, mango and ruby grapefruit notes. Shows nice intensity on the long, expressive finish.”

For now, even with duty increases, we have managed to keep the price at $19.30. By the way, it is the fifth largest-selling sauvignon blanc in the US.

Wine.com describes the following Marlborough sauvignon blanc in this way: “Fresh, ethereal and delightful, this frisky 2015 offers very on-point characteristics of the varietal and its place of origin. This would be a perfect choice with a tray of freshly-shucked raw oysters.

“Light straw colour; shows bright citrus and dried herbs in the nose; medium-bodied, lively and crisp on the palate; dry, medium acidity, nicely balanced; bright citrus and dried herbs in the flavours; crisp aftertaste.”

I could add that in the USA it stands in third place out of them all, from any part of the world.

I am fairly sure you are not thinking Whitehaven Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc and, to be brutally honest, it is the price of $29.45 that keeps it out of the everyday household name category. It is classic, though, and deserves a try.

The first Oyster Bay vines were planted in 1988 and the label takes its name from the local Oyster Bay, situated in the picturesque headlands of Marlborough Sound on the northern tip of New Zealand’s beautiful South Island.

After we introduced their Sauvignon Blanc, it did not take long to secure the top spot in sales and its consistent quality, along with savvy buyers, has kept it there. When they released their first wine of this type, it won the title of Best Sauvignon Blanc in the World. $21.25.

While in Marlborough, I would be remiss not to mention Seresin, Monkey Bay and Nobilo.

Moving to Hawke’s Bay in North Island and New Zealand’s oldest winery, a wonderful and unique wine is our Te Mata Cape Crest Barrel Fermented 2015 Sauvignon Blanc. It costs $28.95 and critics compare it with Bordeaux whites costing up to five times as much.

Dan Murphy, a well-known writer for wines Down Under has this to say: “A lovely and unusual sauvignon blanc from Hawke’s Bay. It is barrel-fermented with a touch of semillon and sauvignon gris. This wine has aromas of citrus blossom, pear and stone fruit and will evolve in the bottle for five years from harvest.”

This column is an advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. E-mail mrobinson@bll.bm or 295-0176. Burrows Lightbourn has stores in Hamilton (Front Street East, 295-1554), Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355) and St George’s (York Street, 297-0409). Visit www.wineonline.bm

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Published May 4, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated May 4, 2018 at 8:07 am)

New Zealand wine industry growing rapidly

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