New Zealand White Wine
A wonderful country. I spent a year in New Zealand and toured both north and south islands. Wine making is a relatively new venture in the land of the long white cloud. There were virtually no grapes planted on south island until the 1970s! And already cool climate Marlborough has given the world a completely new style of wine with it's sensational sauvignon blanc. Love it or hate it, there's no other wine in the world like it. The cooler climate of the south island is also ideal for pinot noir and they make some stunning examples. As all the vineyards are virtually new, it's the pioneering spirit of couples and families that has been the back bone of New Zealand wine, while the rest of the world was being dominated by corporate brands. If you want a truly oustanding wine go for one that is family owned. The ones I'm recommending are superb.
The New Zealand wine industry has flourished and the number of wineries has virtually doubled in the last ten years from 600 or so to well over 1000, with the emergence of many boutique wineries. Anybody who has travelled to New Zealand knows that they are blessed with vast tracts of fertile land and usually great weather too, producing an abundance of fresh produce. They have a very healthy diet and lifestyle, and this passion for quality natural produce has influenced their winemaking. Steer clear of the mass produced brands, and particularly all the UK bottled "own label" Sauvignon Blanc that has flooded the UK since the credit crunch, and you will discover that there are many boutique wineries producing outstanding quality wines with minimal additives and manipulation.
The Gimblett Gravels area of Hawke's Bay has become world famous for quality reds, particularly Bordeaux varietals (such as Cabernet, Merlot and Malbec), and Syrah too. Hawke's Bay is also renowned for producing New Zealand's best Chardonnay. Waiheke Island is producing some outstanding reds, Martinborough is now recognised as a top region for Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc, and Central Otago and Canterbury are producing world class Reisling as well as the Pinot Noir they're famous for. An abundance of riches!
Jurassic Ridge Winery - Waiheke Island
Wineries anywhere don't come more "boutique" than Jurassic Ridge!
Waiheke Island is now New Zealand's most fashionable wine region, since it was discovered it had the ideal conditions to make world class red wines from traditional French and Italian grape varieties.
Jurassic Ridge, owned and run by Lance and Luciana Blumhardt, is a tiny operation of just 1.6 hectares where all the wines are made by hand - literally. The operation is just Lance and his wife Luciana who hails from the fabulous Taurasi district of Italy (famous for making some special red wines from the local Aglianico grape, and a particular favourite of mine!).
Lance is a retired neurologist, now a full time winemaker, vineyard hand, cellar door person and odd job man organising everything on the vineyard and in the winery. Luciana is a still active neurophysiologist, as well as full time vineyard hand and viticulturist. Lance had originally studied geology before switching to medicine which no doubt had a hand in him selecting a unique piece of land consisting of 155 million year old Jurassic rock to plant his vineyard.
While teaching medical students in the UK he found himself spending too much time in the Chateaux of Bordeaux, and decided it was time to take early retirement and set up his own vineyard and winery.
They planted their vineyard by hand in 2002. It takes several years before a vine is fit to yield a working crop so the actual winemaking started with the 2004 vintage. Since then they've gone on to win some top awards and huge critical praise. Their wines are made with real passion and attention to detail that often gets quickly lost in bigger operations. Not surprisingly given his time in France, Lance's wines have an old world influence focussing on elegance and structure over pure fruit.
Lance also has a unique vineyard in the Waihopai Valley in Marlborough, which is roughly midway between Blenheim and Awatere Valley. This produces wonderful fruit with mineral qualities, which Lance's good friend Alan McCorkindale (former head winemaker at Cloudy Bay back when they were making outstanding wines) vinifies for him. This Sauvignon Blanc is something special!