Rugby and wine: NZ’s state of play

QUAFFER’S CORNER

IT’S Rugby World Cup time so let’s cast an eye over the state of play in host country New Zealand – also my home nation. I’m confident in predicting that the winning country will be a wine producer but I won’t tempt fate by going any further.

It’s been a tough couple of years for Kiwi wine-makers. The global economic crisis and over-production led to some deep discounting of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc in the UK and, inevitably, wines are now emerging to target the lower price point. Production is becoming polarised between those pursuing an ambitious, quality agenda (often with wild ferments and judicious oak ageing; for this try Seresin “Marama” or Dog Point “Section 94”) and dull, increasingly sweet, commercial styles.

A white grape with loads of potential in New Zealand is Riesling. At this stage, it’s really hitting the mark in Waipara (I love Pegasus Bay and their second label Main Divide) and the future looks very bright indeed.
On the red front, the Pinot Noir bandwagon has wobbled with Central Otago producing too many green examples (though they can be astonishing as Block 3 & 5 from Felton Road attest) and the Marlborough region’s efforts often lacking fruit. I’d look to Martinborough for an intense, savoury Pinot – consider Martinborough Vineyards or, oh so consistent, Ata Rangi.

The best examples of NZ Shiraz (syrah) are steering a middle course between the savoury complexity of the Northern Rhône and the big concentration of Australia. I’ve been most excited in recent years by fantastic wines in Hawke’s Bay (Craggy Range “Le Sol”, Te Mata “Bullnose”, Brookfields “Hillside”) and Waiheke Island (Man O’War “Dreadnought”).

It’d be great to drink a New Zealand wine to toast the victory of the All Bl... no, don’t say it!