New Zealand’s Other Wines

By / Wine + Drinks / April 24th, 2014 / 2

I’m sure you know everything that needs to be known about New Zealand and the wines made there, right? After all, you know Sauvignon Blanc and have probably looked at (if not tasted) a bottle of their Pinot Noir; but it’s that Sauvignon Blanc you know best: crisp, acidic, flavourful with great aromatics and the three G’s in abundance: grapefruit, grassy and gooseberry. Yup, the country practically re-wrote the book on Sauvignon Blanc and how we view it, to the extent that New Zealand, to many, is known more for the grape than the Loire (its traditional home). It’s now synonymous with Sauvignon Blanc and vice versa, and when it comes to wine that’s all you need to know … end of story. Or is it?

While Sauvignon Blanc is the Kiwis’ biggest export wine (84%) and its signature variety, (67% of their production is devoted to the grape) there are other grapes being grown and other interesting wines being made. But by comparison they are minuscule next to the Sauvignon Blanc juggernaut they have created. Just look at the numbers: 19,930 hectares of Sauvignon Blanc are planted; the next highest is Pinot Noir (5096 hectares) and all other grapes, both red and white combined, only equal 9243 hectares. So it’s no wonder we’re all brainwashed into believing New Zealand makes Sauvignon Blanc and that’s all. But I’m here to tell you that there is more to this tiny country than that crisp, white flagship and its much-lesser red partner in vine crime. Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Viognier, Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet are all varieties grown and they make some pretty exciting wines, we just have learn to push the boundaries of what we are willing to try and get out of the mindset that all the Kiwis make is Savvy B.


Astrolabe Province Pinot Gris 2012 ($22.95)

A beautiful apple-pear combo makes this a true Pinot Gris full of lovely white fruit flavours.


Babich Pinot Gris 2012 ($15.95)

Plenty of white fruits with a touch of bitterness on the finish, probably from the 20% oak used, this helps to keep it clean and honest.


Churton Viognier 2011 ($36.95)

Pineapple and pear take centre stage here with a touch of citrus rind on the finish.


Elephant Hill Syrah 2012 ($29.95)

Very raspberry with white pepper and smoke, no mistaking the Syrah pedigree.


Elephant Hill Reserve Syrah 2009 ($45)

Stunningly smooth and quite sexy, all the elements of Syrah are here: generous raspberry and strawberry notes along with pepper and smoke backing it up.


Forrest Pinot Gris 2012 ($19.95)

Pretty floral and pear aromas that follow into the mouth and coat the tongue with flavour.


Giesen Estate Riesling 2012 ($16.95)

There’s some peach and pear mingling with good acidity on the palate, has a sweetness to it that makes it a good summer sipper.


Marisco The Kings Bastard Chardonnay 2011 ($19.95)

This winery has a cool story we can’t get into here but this delicious Chard is a great mix of vanilla, butter and tropical fruit.


Pask Gimblett Road Merlot 2009 ($18.95)

A warmer year Merlot with lots of robust fruit and nice tannin structure. There’s some age-ability to this bottle so don’t waste it by drinking it all now.


Sileni Estates Merlot 2012 ($15.95)

Nice oak with hints of cinnamon lead the charge followed by dried cherry and hints of cranberry — this one would fit in well on barbecue night.


Sileni Estate NV Cellar Selection Sparkling Pinot Gris ($18.95)

Seems the Kiwis have value bubbles down pat, too, with this lovely Pinot Gris sparkler: apple, pear and citrus all mix mid-palate leading to a dry finish.


Sileni Estate “Parkhill” Pinot Gris 2010 ($22.95)

There’s a slight sweetness here of apple and sweet pear — a delightful patio sipper.


Villa Maria Private Bin Pinot Gris 2012 ($16.45)

Good mix of sweet and dry that flows through the palate with white fruit: apple, pear and peach.


Spinyback Pinot Gris 2012 ($17.95)

Fresh fruit but with bite to it, think lemon-lime laced apple, sweet and tart with green apple pucker on the finish.


Waimea Viognier 2010 ($19.95)

Made from the oldest Viognier vines in New Zealand (11 years), 9 months in barrel barely shows on this tasty beauty full of tropical fruit with a seam of vanilla.


Crossroads Milestones Series Syrah 2011 ($27.95)

Smoky and toasty with white pepper and raspberry.


Sileni The Triangle Merlot 2010 ($16.95)

Nice structure with some good complexity, not your typical juicy American style, this one would be right at home around the barbecue with all its smoky elements.


Dog Point Vineyard Chardonnay 2011 ($39.95)

A fully oaked version of Chard with nice buttery and spicy notes all leading to sweet fruit and a good, long, finish.


Michael is an award-winning journalist: Promoting the Promoters Award Cuvée 2010 and Ontario Wine Awards Journalist of the Year 2012.  He is also a national and international wine judge - Ontario Wine Awards, All Canadian Wine Championships; Best of Riesling — Germany; Essencia do Vinho — "Top Wines of Portugal".  He is currently the President of the Wine Writers Circle of Canada and the wine columnist for Ottawa Life and Grand magazine as well as regular contributor to Tidings, and Grapevine ... his reviews have also appeared in the LCBO Vintages magazine. Michael has also added a YouTube channel to his activities where he reviews bottles of great Ontario wine on a weekly basis. In whatever he does, it is Michael’s desire to educate, inspire and encourage others to grow their own love and enthusiasm for wine – and to realize that it is their palate that ultimately makes the decision.

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