New Zealand Wine Explained…All Of It

Let’s play a word association game. I say New Zealand, you say…Sauvignon Blanc, right?

There’s a good reason for that. New Zealand put Sauvignon Blanc back on the map over the past 20 years, and when 80% of the wine produced in a country is a single variety, the association is bound to be strong.

There's more to New Zealand wine than Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (though that's pretty fantastic)!

There’s more to New Zealand wine than Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (though that’s pretty fantastic)!

But as I learned attending the 2014 Air New Zealand Wine Awards in Hawkes Bay last November, New Zealand is about a whole lot more than that. Rather than tell you myself, though, I thought I’d talk to a real expert on New Zealand wine, John Belsham.

Why should you care with John has to say? Well, for one thing, he’s been making and judging wines from all over New Zealand for about 35 years now, and started his own winery called Foxes Island back in 1992. Second, he’s been helping select Air New Zealand’s wines since 2000 (and was the chief judge for its wine awards for four of those years), so he’s gotten to try literally thousands of wines from all over the country. He’s probably the most knowledgeable person on New Zealand wines I’ve ever met. Finally, he’s also a pretty snazzy dresser (look how he pulls off that pink shirt!).

So yeah, he knows what he’s talking about. Rather than taking up more of your time expatiating on New Zealand’s various regions, climates, varieties and wine styles myself, though, I’ll let John do the heavy lifting.

Talk of toilet bowl swirl direction and the inverse relation of sobriety to the pull of gravity aside, John has some great tips for what you should be drinking from New Zealand.

As he suggests, look out for regions and varieties you might not be familiar with, like Syrah from Hawkes Bay, Riesling from Martinborough and sparkling wines from Central Otago. That said, there’s a reason New Zealand put Sauvignon Blanc back in the public eye, so don’t be afraid to go for a good old Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc!

Meanwhile, if you’re interested in the wine he mentioned in the video, it’s Terra Sancta Miro’s Block Dry Riesling from Bannockburn in Central Otago and it’s very crisp, acidic with some lovely floral notes to it. And if you would like the full list of wines that actually won medals at the Air New Zealand Wine Awards in 2014, check out the results here.

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