Archive for January, 2009

New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Worlds Most Popular and Least Understood Wine

January 22, 2009

New Zealand Sauvignon blanc could be one of the world’s most popular wines and at the same time the least understood. When you pause and consider that over 85% of New Zealand’s wine producers make less than 25k cases of wine per year, yet the world is generally exposed to the production from the remaining 15%.

Granted, this 15% has done a tremendous job of marketing a singular story, the really exciting side of New Zealand is this large group of micro producers.

This group has regional diversity, winemaking styles that vary and generally a very hands on approach in their vineyards. Most are both wine growers and wine makers. In other words they can honestly be viewed as Estates.

New Zealand wine writer Michael Cooper recently wrote about this in the New Zealand Listener. His article has some interesting comments.

  • …the classic French grape variety also thrives in other regions, from Hawke’s Bay to Waipara…
  • … from Hawke’s Bay grapes and modelled on the famous dry whites of Graves, in Bordeaux, swings the spotlight on our alternative sauvignons.
  • UK wine writer Tom Cannavan argues that ‘‘the ‘typical’ New Zealand sauvignon is not a food wine, and is rarely subtle or complex … the style is becoming a caricature: aromatic fireworks and a dollop of residual sugar to balance searing acidity has become a recipe by which some churn out a ‘product’, rather than a wine”.
  • … is critical of the common practice in New Zealand of making sauvignon blanc slightly sweet, “a style where one glass is definitely enough
  • … Surely the world expects sauvignon blanc to be dry white wine. I certainly do!”

The article continues to highlight several producers who understand the difference between “fine wine and a refreshing beverage”.

This is just one of many comments I hear about the current state of New Zealand wine. Some predict New Zealand is following Australia toward the same cliff.

My sense is the world is about to discover the “little guys” scattered across New Zealand who make really nice wines, that lead to memorable evenings with friends and food.

You can read the full article on the Listeners web site. Listener

Favorite New Zealand Recipe

January 19, 2009

Mark McDonough at Zarbo Deli in Auckland New Zealand has been crafting fun and tasty food for over 20 years. Here is one of his favorite’s that will delight on a cool winter evening along with a New Zealand Pinot Noir.

Serves 4-6 Lamb Shanks are always a favourite. They are really simple to prepare and if cooked slowly will be succulent and tender. Ras el-hanout is a traditional Moroccan Spice which we sell at Zarbo as Moroccan Rub.

6 lamb shanks                                                   morshanks1

3 tablespoons ras el-hanout

2 large onions, roughly diced

1 head garlic, cloves crushed, peeled and left whole

2 teaspoons extra ras el-hanout

2 400g tins whole peeled Italian tomatoes

3 cups beef stock

1 cup red wine

1-2 teaspoons harissa paste (to taste)

Place the lamb shanks in a plastic bag and add the 3 tablespoons of ras el-hanout. Coat well and leave overnight.

The shanks need to be seared to seal in the flavours. Do this on the barbecue or heat a little oil in a pan and sear. Place the seared shanks in a large ovenproof dish. In a saucepan saute the onion in a little olive oil, add the garlic, 2 teaspoons of ras el-hanout, the tomatoes, stock, wine and harissa. Heat and pour over the shanks. Cover and bake in a preheated oven at 160C for 1 1/2 hours. Remove cover and bake a further 30 minutes, turning the shanks a couple of times.

Remove the cooked shanks and keep warm. transfer the liquid to a saucepan, bring to the boil and reduce. Serve the shanks and sauce on couscous, rice or with roasted potatoes.

Peninsula Estate

January 8, 2009

Peninsula Estate on Waiheke Island in New Zealand could be  one of the most beautiful places on earth to grow grapes. Let’s just let the pictures tell the story. Or visit their web site for more why Robert Parker included this estate in his recent publication.

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New Zealand Wine Glut

January 6, 2009

On January 1 the Marlborough Express reported there is a surplus of New Zealand wine on the horizon and also concern how some lower quality fruit might compromise the image of New Zealand wine around the world.

I think the panic is very premature and is the natural evolution of the industry. It is not a bad thing to have bulk wine produced for lower price points coming from New Zealand. California has a very robust bulk or cheap wine industry and the boutique wine industry thrives too.

In fact, the boutique wine industry in California is so robust they have their own group called Family Winemakers of California who offer legislative and marketing support for these micro producers.

It may come as a surprise to some in New Zealand, but you all ready have cheap and inexpensive wine in the USA.untitled-22 This ad from 2006 shows some very low price points at a time when press releases were heralding demand was exceeding supply.

You will notice a couple of very inexpensive wines from California too. The fact they exist has not “killed” the wine industry. It is just a different set of customers and expectations.

Someone has to scavenge the bottom to keep the system clean.

Fearing the dark is silly, put this low end wine in a box and move on.

The New Zealand wine story is very much like California with both large global wine companies and the micro producers who excel at crafting fine wine for a small select group of consumers. California does not produce one and only one tier of quality and consumers do not punish the region for doing so.

It might be time to take a page from the California play book and have a similar group representing “the little guys” in New Zealand.  Or at least, for those that believe they are in the fine wine business to stand up and perform a Haka to the world and share their unique and wonderful stories.

This is where New Zealand excels with a rich mosaic of stories to share that are very real, very personal and most of all, evolving on a daily basis. With easy to use and low cost social media tools available today, everyone should be engaged with the global conversation of wine.

Welcome to the newest chapter of the New Zealand wine experience and Web 2.0.

The article mentioned can be read here Marlborough Express.

PS. The word glut was theirs not mine.