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New Zealand PDF Print E-mail

New Zealand?s principal export is dairy products and its dairy farmers are currently thriving.? So too are New Zealand winemakers, but of their output, only a tiny percentage goes for export, less than 0.4 per cent of the world?s wine consumption according to some estimates.?

 

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Flying into Auckland you will find it is a modern bustling city, yet it has a tremendous old-world ? almost eighteenth-century feel to it.? Down at Viaduct Quay, old meets modern with a Maritime Museum, alongside recent America?s Cup contenders, including Spirit of New Zealand, the controversial 1988 entry.

Just off the east coast of Auckland is Waiheke Island, a beautiful, unspoiled rural area that is well worth a visit. Waikehe Island is home to, among others, a fine winery, known as Kennedy Point Wines.? Just a short bus ride from the passenger ferry from Viaduct Quay in Auckland, Kennedy Point offers free tastings daily.

Kennedy Point produces an excellent Cabernet Sauvignon and a superb Syrah.? The vineyard is planted on steep, north facing slopes and as well as a limited quantity of wine, Kennedy Point also produces fine extra virgin olive oil and avocado oil.? All are available for tasting.

Goldwater is one of the better known wineries on Waiheke, producing the traditional Merlot, as well as its flagship wine, a wonderful blend of Cabernet, Merlot and Franc.

The Goldwater Estate was established in 1978 by Kim and Jeanette Goldwater when they planted their first vinifera vineyard on Waiheke. There are now more than 30 vineyards on Waiheke Island but Goldwater Estate remains one of the most successful, exporting wine to 25 countries worldwide.

Stonyridge Vineyard on Waiheke produces some of the finest wines under the Stonyridge Larose label; the winery also bottles a range called Fallen Angel wines, but does not actually produce the grapes on the 25 hectares of the estate. The flagship wines of Stonyridge are a classic Chardonnay, along with a tasty Merlot Cabernet Franc.? The latter is a deep colored red wine with rich aromas of ripe Waiheke fruit, cassis and plums.? The leathery flavors of Merlot combine to add further interest.

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Hawkes Bay

In and around the celebrated Hawkes Bay area on the south-east coast of the North Island there are over 30 individual wineries, ranging from a miniscule 25 tonnes a year, to an export-oriented 110,000 tonnes, with customers ranging from celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay?s restaurants to Jimmy Chin?s acclaimed Chinese restaurant in New York.

One of the leading wineries in Hawkes Bay is Hatton Estates, run by winemaker extraordinaire Michael Daymond-King.? He has this to say about his art:

?There are two reason why there is such unprecedented demand for New Zealand wine on a global basis.? The first is that the wines are very easy to understand.? They have a very good fruit definition, which is what people like and they know they go very, very well with food.? Plus, I think, New Zealand people love showing off about their place and talking about the country.. And I think they do that very well.

?You only have to look at the figures in the UK.? I think New Zealand is 0.4 per cent of the world?s wine production, but it is fully six per cent of the ontrade market in London.? Lamb does not have that penetration, but wine certainly does.?

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New Zealand to most people is a pair (actually three) far-off islands, but there is a great variety of climates throughout New Zealand. New Zealand wine-growing regions have a marginal, cool maritime climate. The North Island areas of Waiheke Island and Hawkes Bay on the south-east coast have a warm, dry maritime climate similar to Bordeaux, while Marlborough on the South Island has a more continental climate similar to Burgundy or the Loire region.

New Zealand?s unique geography and its climate, coupled with the creativity of its winemakers has enabled New Zealand wine to attain international recognition and many outstanding awards.? Its Sauvignon Blancs are world acclaimed as are its more recently popularized pinot noir wines.

The wines of New Zealand command a considerable price premium, yet are highly competitive at the high end of the market.?? It remains true, however, that New Zealand wine commands the highest average price per bottle of any wine in the world.

Michael Daymond-King: ?The advantages we have are that from the top of the North Island it is like being in Spain, while at the bottom of the South Island, it?s like being in Scotland.? So when you think about that kind of scale, over a 1500 kilometre distance, you have a massive amount of different climates.? Here in Hawkes Bay you?ve obviously got a dry climate during the summer, so we produce wines very like a Bordeaux.? When you talk about the whites in the central part of New Zealand, they are very much more Burgundian in style, although much more fruit defined.?

Around seventy-five per cent of all wines exported from New Zealand are Sauvignon Blanc, but Hatton Este has a wide variety of interesting wines.

?Hatton Estate is based in Hawkes Bay.? The food that we eat and the wine that goes with that food is based around what grapes grow the best here.? What grows best in Hawkes Bay is generally red wine, so the Bordeaux varieties of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc.? We also find that Syrah grows well here.? A little like the Rhone Valley.? We here particularly have a gravelly soil, but generally Syrah grows very well in Hawkes Bay to the European style rather than the Australian style.

?The micro-climate can be very important but we are lucky in Hawkes Bay because we get a long run to the finish of summer and a long extended autumn without rain.? It?s quite useful in that respect, although we cannot get away from the fact that we are dependent on the climate.

?We do have a maritime climate and that is one of the appeals of the wines and we like to think that you can tell a Hawkes Bay Bordeaux or a Hawkes Bay Merlot.?

Hatton Estate began in 1992.? The estate sells Hatton Estate wine to Gordon Ramsay?s restaurants and more recently Michael has brought in the Turtle Bay range of wines.

?Turtle Bay has been very successful for us,? he says. ?We realised that while people love the boutique wines, in the end you?ve got to pay the bank manager, so you?ve got to have a wine like Turtle Bay to do that.?

Clearview Bay Estate Winery & Restaurant

Another independent winery in Te Awanga, near the delightfully named Cape Kidnappers, is the Clearview Estate run by Tim Turvey. Tim Turvey?s name card describes him as ?Winemaker/Owner? and the fact the winemaker is given greater prominence tends to tell a great deal about the man.? A self-taught winemaker, Tim realised he had a product that was in great demand, but it was not always easy.? He explains:

??I have been a grower of just about everything throughout my life,? he says. ?I had the biggest pineapple farm in Australia. I was growing everything, peas, beans, peaches, all in Hawkes Bay.? I was also doing other things overseas and I came back here and decided that I wanted to ? well, someone offered me a job in the wine industry, but I said I know nothing about grapes.? He responded saying, you know everything about every other kind of plant.?? They said they?d make it worth my while, and they did, and that?s when I fell in love with the grapes.

?I bought this place ? then around 25 acres ? exactly 23 years ago and established a vineyard.? And when the first fruit came on I realized I?d got something a little special, so I decided to make my own wine.? What you see at Clearview is that a little Kiwi ingenuity cracked it.? Every nail that?s been put in, every piece of concrete, every vine I have grafted; every post I have rammed in the ground.? There was a five year project of doing nothing other than establishing the property.

?Those were the early days, of course, when I had no money, but now I employ 25 people.? We grow everything here, we make it all here, we bottle it here, we label it all here, we distribute it from here.? Seventy percent of it is mail order straight into people?s homes.? It?s a very enviable situation to be in.?

Clearview supplies the majority of its wines to New Zealand customers: ?We export when we get desperate,? jokes Turvey.? Around 20 of the 40 acres are given over to Chardonnay grapes, while the oldest vines are devoted to exotic Cabernet Franc.? Clearview re-plants vines progressively over a 4-5 year cycle and they then take around three years to come on stream.

The problems affecting wine growers in Hawkes Bay are surprisingly few.? Turvey explains: ?There are no problems that we have not been able to overcome.? Hawkes Bay has a wonderful climate.? There is a west to east drift of climate across New Zealand from Australia and as it travels up over? the mountain range beside us it drops all its ?nasties?, all the cold , all the rain and comes to us as a dry wind on the east coast.? It?s a very dry, ideal climate for growing grapes, and with just enough moisture to keep them alive.? It?s everything that a grape likes.?

The salt water from the ocean protects the grapes and prevents them rotting, although a major problem is sometimes ?birds eating the grapes?.? Turvey has also installed an electrically-driven wind turbine, to move air and prevent grapes rotting.? Other wineries resort to such extremes as hiring a helicopter to achieve the same end.

Clearview Estate splits its crop approximately 50:50 between reds and whites, with some wine connoisseurs believing white is very clinical to make, and that red is far more satisfying.? Tim Turvey disagrees: ?The first grapes I grew from the first vine I made here were for red wine and then we decided to establish a vineyard restaurant, one of the first in New Zealand.? And we realized we needed black grapes as well.? I would disagree that whites are too clinical.? As a winemaker you?ve probably got more room to experiment with white wines than you have with red wine.? Red wine: ferment, put it in a barrel.? White wine you have a number of options.? You?ve got melolactics; you can barrel ferment or tank ferment.? There are a number of options available with white wine.? I really believe there is more room to experiment with white wine.

?However, I think white wine grows better for us here on the coast than red wine.? You get it right more often.? White wine grapes ripen before red wine ones.? But living out here, it?s a very clean atmosphere and I can hold the fruit for a lot longer than anybody else because of the constant sea breezes.?

Church Road

Church Road Winery is located almost in the centre of Napier, possibly the strangest place to discover a winery. It transpires, however, that over the years much of the estate has been sold off for housing and that the majority of the vines are actually grown a little further out nearer the coast.

Church Road owns around 2,500 acres of vines itself, but also has currently 44 contractors that supply grapes for bottling.? A spokeswoman for Church Road says that they keep a close eye on the quality of the grapes from its sub-contractors: ?There is a certain amount of fashion about wine,? she says.? ?Ten years ago there was significant demand for unoaked Chardonnay; now it?s Sauvignon Blanc.?? She adds, that the quality of all its grapes is ?checked by hand?.

The one acre site actually at Church Road is solely for Merlot grapes, ?the top end of the market,? she says.

Church Road produces a wonderful Reserve Viognier 2007.? Viognier is a grape variety that originates from the Rh?ne Valley in France; Church Road?s Viognier is hand harvested from its Redstone vineyard in the Ngatawara Triangle district.? With a fresh fruit flavour and floral aroma, Viognier is ideal with spicy food, such as Thai cuisine.

Church Road has also created a wine museum, the first such reminder of the winemakers heritage in New Zealand.? The museum traces the journey through history and the techniques of winemaking pioneered by Church Road founder Tom McDonald, who was widely acknowledged as the father of New Zealand?s premium red wine industry.? Housed underground inside some of the original concrete wine vats, the scene recreates old-time winemaking.

Church Road is renowned for its Chardonnay and Bordeaux-style red wines, using the ripe and distinctive fruit of Hawkes Bay.? The barrels used are either French or Hungarian oak, costing around NZ$1200 -1300 each.? Hungarian barrels are preferred as the ones from France are ?sometimes too expensive?.? Corks are from Portugal. All Church Road wines are sold mainly in New Zealand; none are exported.

That New Zealand wine is becoming much sought after should come as no surprise to anyone that has visited this wonderful, clean and inspiring archipelago, and to anyone that has experienced some of the very best wines on offer.? Yes, they are relatively expensive compared to, say, Australian or South American, but they really do have a character all their own.

 
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© 2018 Jeff Heselwood. All rights reserved.
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