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Fave New World

Suffice to say that I was ruddy-cheeked by the time I departed.

That’ll happen when you (a) spend a few hours in a room with some 200 wines from 37 different New Zealand winemakers and (b) have yet to learn the necessary art of spitting. I’m feeling woozy just thinking about it.

The event was yesterday’s annual New Zealand wine trade tasting presented by New Zealand winegrowers and ably organised by Jean Smullen. The tasting room was filled with wine buyers and restaurateurs and people whose job it is to write about wine and, er, me (there will be no prizes for spotting the odd one out, sorry!).

Annual New Zealand WIne Tade Tasting, Dublin

Wine, check, glasses, check, off we go...

But while I might be more wine bluffer than wine buff, I did have one advantage yesterday, because I had already had the privilege of attending a private tasting with Patrick Materman, chief winemaker with Montana, the original makers of Marlborough sauvignon blanc, a wine for which New Zealand is rightly famous. On foot of that, I felt at least somewhat clued into what makes Kiwi wines the international force that they are.

Tasting Montana Wines From New Zealand

7 Montana wines for me to taste - somewhat more manageable than 200...

Leading the charge, of course, is sauvignon blanc, the grape which established New Zealand on the world wine stage a mere 30 years ago. If that drink you’re sipping reminds you of either grapefruit or passionfruit or both, then you may well have a Marlborough sauvignon blanc in your hand, as the compounds producing those two flavours are present in spades in the grapes of New Zealand’s Marlborough region (either that or you’re drinking fruit juice and perhaps you should consider switching…)

Newer again to the New Zealand repertoire is pinot noir, but it’s a grape that Montana and others (including the cast of the film Sideways) take very seriously. It requires careful handling and, when over-cropped, you get, as Patrick described it, the dreaded thin red wine. Done well, though, it can have undoubted grace and there was a lot of pinot noir finery on display yesterday. For my part, I will admit to departing the scene clutching a glass of Montana Terraces Pinot Noir 2007, determined not to let go.

Still From The Movie Sideways

Taking pinot noir seriously in Sideways (image from 20th Century Fox)

But New Zealand is not just about sauvignon blanc and pinot noir. Indeed, if anything surprised me about the trade tasting (apart from the fact that I was still standing at the end of it), it was the sheer range of varietals on offer. There were cabernets and merlots and syrahs, pinot grigios, rieslings and chardonnays. Unrestrained by any traditions of longstanding, the Kiwis seem determined to go forth and explore the full range of what it is that their soils and micro-climates can bring to the noble grape.

New Zealand Wine Map

Wine growing regions of New Zealand (map originally published online at www.nicks.com.au)

Within that burgeoning range, though, there is one combination of varietal and region which Patrick thought deserved to be better known, and that is riesling from Waipara Valley. Having only come lately to New Zealand rieslings by way of Muddy Water James Hardwicke Riesling 2008, I couldn’t but agree. I will be looking out for more of the same in future, while I can confirm that the Waipara Hills Soul of the South Riesling 2008 was responsible, at least in part, for yesterday’s particularly rosy facial glow.


  1. Natasha - 5 Star Foodie

    What a great wine tasting! We love wines from New Zealand, particularly pinot (our favorites are Gibbston Valley, Felton Road, House of Nobilo, Icon and Kim Crawford)

  2. Daily Spud

    There’s a lot to love about New Zealand wines Natasha, that’s for sure :) I don’t know that I’ve had any of the ones you mention, though I’ll have to look out for them. Actually, Nobilo were one of the wineries at the trade tasting but I didn’t get to them – I reckon I would still be there now if I had tried to sample everything that was on offer!

  3. The Diva on a Diet

    I’m a fan of the New Zealand wines too – especially the whites. What a fun and informative event. Thanks for the expert coverage, Spud! :)

  4. The Duo Dishes

    200 wines!!! Wow. We just went to an Australia food/wine event with 30 varieties, and that was too much. In the best way of course. What a way to learn about NZ wines!

  5. lucy

    that looks great, I drank some very nice white wine when I was in NZ last year, shame I can’t remember for the life of me what it was though – I was in Nelson area, hmmmm now to travel back in time and check out that label

  6. Jenni

    200 wines?! Talk about palate fatigue! And public drunkenness! What a way to go, though:)

  7. Chef E

    I always have to be the DD when hubby and I go to a 200 wine tasting event! We walk away with lots of opened bottles at the end…

    Jenni is right so much palate fatigue and public drunkenness, and no cops even near the events!

    I can only handle maybe ten taste (wines) and I am done done done…maybe that is what DD really means :)

  8. sippitysup.com

    Wow that’s a lot of wine to taste. That flight of seven seems much more sensible. GREG

  9. OysterCulture

    Yum, love NZ wines, and I had fun looking at your map as we drove from Auckland down the East Coast of NZ and sampled the pleasurable and highly palatable wines from Hawkes Bay and Walkado. I’m a huge Reisling fan, so appreciate the shout out for the wineries you mentioned – I’ll be on the lookout.

    Next time though, see if they include tickets, as you need to experience them in their natural environment.

  10. Lar Veale

    Had planned eagerly to attend after work but unfortunately work did not end that evening until 10pm. Second NZ annual tasting I missed – thanks for the excelled write-up, makes me even more bitter about my absence.

    Any sweet wines on show? Seems that recently and for the first time NZ sweeties have been allowed into the EU.


  11. Daily Spud

    Diva: why thank you, a pleasure to bring the coverage to your door :)

    Duo Dishes: “too much in the best way” is a pretty apt description of the event alright!

    lucy: ah, if only such time & wine travel were possible!

    Jenni: I dread to think what shape I would have been in if I had actually attempted to taste the full quota of 200 :D I might have tasted somewhere around 50 but a definite fatigue factor (palate & otherwise) does set in at that stage!

    Chef E: all I know is that I was surely done, done, done, and then some at the end of the event :)

    sippitysup: a lot of wines to sup indeed – in this case 7 is indeed an eminently more sensible number than 200

    OysterCulture: what I wouldn’t give to go on a wine tour of New Zealand – it would probably take quite a while, but I’m ok with that :)

    Lar: Oh no, that has got to hurt! On the sweet wines front, didn’t taste many, but my notes tell me that I liked the Seifried Gewurztraminer Nelson 2009. Siefried also had a dessert wine (the sweet Agnes Riesling Nelson 2008), though I seem to have preferred the Gewurztraminer.

  12. Tangled Noodle

    The Noodles are fans of New Zealand Sauv Blanc – Natasha mentioned Kim Crawford, which is a great value for a lovely wine. I’ve said it before: you go to the most fun wine and spirits events! Thanks for sharing. 8-)

  13. Hampers

    What a wonderful post, beautifully written. It captures New Zealand wine lovers so well.

  14. Daily Spud

    Tangled Noodle: ah, you are welcome – I’m looking forward to the day when we can share the experience of such an event in person and not just on the blog…

    Hampers: why thank you so much for your kind comments and thanks for dropping by!

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