The Cellar: Summer Wines from New Zealand

Friday, June 10, 2016

 

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This week's featured wines are from the remote Pacific island nation of New Zealand. While the country remains well-known for its pungent Sauvignon Blanc (primarily from the  Marlborough region which is responsible for 85% of all Sauvignon Blancs produced in the country), the fact is that winemakers produce a slew of other wines made from dozens of different grape varieties; whites as well as reds.

But we will start with the sort of wine that originally placed (and continue to cement) New Zealand on the international wine map. The wine is the $13ish 2015 Sauvignon Blanc from Matua Winery. In making this wine grapes were sourced from over 100 vineyards throughout Marlborough – arguably New Zealand's most famous of its 10 wine regions. After careful selection and pressing, the juice was transferred into stainless steel tanks for fermentation, followed by a period on the lees (dead yeasts) before blending and bottling.

The resulting wine is classic Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc; fresh, crisp and delicious. Tropical fruits alongside the grassy greens dominate on the nose while a mix of citrus, stone and tropical fruits take over on the palate. The wine shows extraordinary balance and length on the finish. For under $15 this is a ‘must-sip’ wine.

If you look at a map you’ll notice that New Zealand is the home of the world's southernmost vineyards. Because of the cooler conditions the wines are often leaner, more elegant and higher in acid – this goes for the whites as well as the reds. Don't expect big, extracted fruit bombs here. Most of the red grapes (excluding Pinot Noir which is found all over the country) are grown primarily on the Northern Island where the days are longer and summer temperatures higher. Here grape varieties such as Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc are grown.

Located on the east coast of the northern island, Hawkes Bay is New Zealand’s second most prolific wine region. This region is most famous for its red Bordeaux inspired blends and full bodied Chardonnay’s. They also grow Syrah in the medium-bodied, peppered style, as opposed to the full-bodied fruit-forward ones that neighboring Australia is famous for.

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Hawkes Bay is the home of Trinity Hill Winery who makes this week’s second featured wine. Their 2014 ‘The Trinity’ is a Merlot dominated red blend with smaller proportions of Tempranillo, Malbec and Cabernet Franc. Each bath of grapes were harvested, pressed, macerated and vinified separately. After 14 months of aging in a combination of small French oak barrels and stainless steel tanks the wine was blended together.

The resulting wine is a really fantastic cool-climate red wine. This medium-bodied wine displays a harmonious blend of ripe and slightly underripe red and dark fruit. There is a certain richness to the wine (probably from the Merlot) which is coupled with spice and ripe tannins. There is a cool-climate core of acidity than runs the length of the wine providing an element of freshness and vibrancy.

Cheers, 

Steffen Rasch is a Certified Sommelier and Specialist of Wine. Learn about wine in person by signing up for one of his tastings at the Providence Wine Academy.  

 

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