New Zealand
New Zealand is one of the most beautiful places on earth, and for the past two or three decades, it has become one of the most exciting wine regions.

There are two main islands, North and South, with the South being a bit cooler, making it ideal for planting Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, as well as other cool climate varieties such as Pinot Gris and Riesling. However, it is Sauvignon Blanc from the South Island – especially from the Marlborough region – that has put New Zealand on the wine map.

The typical Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough is aged only in steel, and has intense flavors of gooseberry and passion fruit (the latter in warmer years); there is also vibrant acidity and a distinct minerality. These are powerful wines (too powerful in some instances) and stand as a bit of a contrast to other famous examples of Sauvignon Blanc from France’s Loire Valley, such as Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé. Whatever your take on these wines, they are ideal when paired with mussels, clams or oysters.

Lately, Pinot Noir has become an important entity in New Zealand, both on the South Island (Marlborough and especially Otago) as well as the North Island (Martinborough). While the best wines do have some Burgundian character, these wines have their own identity, as they are quite intense with ripe red and black cherry fruit with distinct spiciness. The best can age for more than a decade, and can be paired with local tuna or swordfish or with duck or other poultry.

Syrah from the Hawke’s Bay region (North Island) is an up and coming wine for New Zealand. The finest are world-class, with a deep plummy quality and enticing black spice, with moderate tannins. These are lovely wines with great harmony and are great evidence of the variety of New Zealand wines.

While many prices remain above $20, given the quality as well as the costs involved in producing these wines (most grapes are hand picked), there are more examples of Sauvignon Blanc on American retail shelves for $15 and under, giving consumers an opportunity to taste the purity and excellence of New Zealand wines on a regular basis. (Wine/Appellations)