Stylish Kiwi wines

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Related tags: Sauvignon blanc, Chardonnay

New Zealand is one of the world's smaller wine producers, but is a star for quality, particularly Sauvignon Blanc and increasingly Pinot Noir. The...

New Zealand is one of the world's smaller wine producers, but is a star for quality, particularly Sauvignon Blanc and increasingly Pinot Noir. The worry for its growing band of UK followers is that the 2003 vintage is drastically down in volume. Order reserve stocks now to avoid disappointment. New Zealand's vineyards have expanded massively in the last 40 years, from less than 1,000 acres in 1960 to more than 30,000 today. Yet the production is only about the same as Cyprus ­ under a tenth of Australia. The Kiwis decided early on to adopt the quality route and this has clearly paid off. It is one of the reasons why the average price of a bottle of wine is increasing faster in the UK than anywhere else: up almost 7% since 1997 to £4.65, according to the Vinexpo-IWSR/GDR study. For a crisp dry white, Sauvignon Blanc is delicious. It has a blackcurrant-leaf aroma and should be enjoyed relatively young, which means within three years of the harvest. For generations, wine drinkers looked to the upper Loire (Pouilly Fumé and Sancerre) for their Sauvignon Blanc. Now, New Zealand has replaced it as the more consistent wine. Crisper than the Californian or Chilean competitors, good Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc is usually the choice at blind tastings for wine examinations. A long ripening season is part of the secret why Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough in South Island is worth seeking. The region enjoys about the same heat as Burgundy, but the cooler nights help preserve acidity. A good example is Lake Chalice. The property was founded in 1989 when Wellington restaurateur Chris Gambitis followed his dream and purchased the Falcon Vineyards, which lie in the Wairu Valley (McKinley Vintners 020 7928 7300). Next door to Cloudy Bay, which helped put Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc on the map, Allan Scott produces a fine wine with real gooseberry character (Lay & Wheeler 01206 764446). For a sparkler, try Pelorus, which is Cloudy Bay's fizz. Barrel-fermented, it is matured for three years on its lees (dead yeast cells), which results in a creamy biscuity finish (Paragon Vintners 020 7887 1800). Lindauer Brut is a competitor with a classic blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay with 18 months ageing on lees (Matthew Clark 01275 836100). If you're looking for an appealing wine by the glass or to accompany paté, try Villa Maria's Private Bin Gewurztraminer. Its intriguing spice and dry taste have many followers, but the recent shipments in screw caps cheapens its image (Hatch Mansfield 01344 871800). A medium-dry fruity white is Nobilo White Cloud. This is a skilful blend of Mueller-Thurgau with Muscat and Chenin Blanc. Its floral, light citrus character makes it a good choice for Oriental cuisine, baked aubergines or to accompany Parma ham and melon (Co-op £4.99). In appealing light autumn reds, Cabernet-Merlot from Hawkes Bay, under the Coopers Creek label, goes beautifully with lamb. It is in its Reserve collection series. The company making this stylish red has recently purchased further vineyards in the famous Gimblett Gravels area and so is a name to watch (Stratford 01628 810606). Pinot Noir, the main red grape of Burgundy, yields lovely fruity quality wines in New Zealand. One of the stars is Ata Rangi, made on 12 acres in Martinborough, just south of Wellington. The 2001 has depth and opulence with supple tannins (Liberty Wines 020 7720 5350). With the 2003harvest down 35% to only 76,400 tonnes, expect orders to be cut and some price rises. Sauvignon Blanc is reduced 23% and Pinot Noir 10%, but hardest hit were Mueller-Thurgau (down 65%) and Chardonnay, reduced by 54%.

Related topics: Wine

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