10/21/10 – new wines from Zealand

By Jesse on October 19, 2010

Ever wonder why New Zealand is called “New Zealand?” Is there an Old Zealand? As a matter of fact, there is: the province of Zeeland in the Netherlands, which is composed entirely of islands, and is popular with tourists for its many miles of beautiful coastline. No wonder the original Dutch explorers made the connection.

New Zealand is an interesting wine destination. It’s a country about 900 miles long, and currently features about 30,000 hectares of vineyards — roughly the same area of planted land as in Napa, a region only 30 miles long. However, as recently as ten years ago, the total productive vine area was a mere third of what it is now, and this massive expansion of New Zealand’s wine production reflects its explosion in popularity on the international wine scene. It’s now considered one of the world’s premiere regions for a number of wines, particularly:

Sauvignon Blanc — New Zealand, despite its tiny size in terms of the global wine market, is considered one of the top locations for Sauvignon Blanc, the best of which “evoke a spectrum of greens: fresh limes, wild herbs, watercress, gooseberries, cardoons, green olives, green figs, and green tea.” Anyone who brings a cardoon for us to try gets reimbursed with Young Winos funds. But wait, there’s more: “New Zealand sauvignons also have an exotic tropical backdrop. They often hint at mango or passion fruit. The combination can be dynamite, making for untamed, unruly, unleashed wines…that possess a clarity, crispness, and razor-sharp focus for which they are rightly loved.” Wow.

Sauvignon Blanc is definitely the star, but New Zealand also features some excellent Chardonnays, a few very good Rieslings, and some reds as well, particularly Cabernet blends and some of the most exciting new Pinot Noirs to be found anywhere. Please bring any of the above, red or white, and we’ll taste the whites first in order to prevent complications to our hangovers.

Adra is heading to New Zealand shortly, so she’s generously offered to host the meeting — or selfishly, perhaps, since she’s clearly just using the Young Winos organization to hand-deliver to her doorstep a crash course on her destination’s wine culture. I feel so used. (By the way, in preparation for her trip, Adra should also check out Eric Arnold’s NZ winemaking memoir First Big Crush, which Andrew Lang reviewed in late 2008. The Winos own a couple of copies as part of our lending library — let me know if any of you would like to give it a read!)

We’ll be meeting at Adra’s place in Santa Monica. To RSVP, simply click “will attend” over on the right side of this page. On the day of the event, I’ll send you an e-mail with the address.

Once you’ve gotten your confirmation e-mail, go find yourself a delicious bottle of New Zealand wine — any varietal will do — or simply bring a ten-dollar donation. We’ll see you all on Thursday night!