Experimenting with producing distinctive wines by judicious blending of different varieties has hardly begun in New Zealand. The last decade has seen major advances in blends of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot and Malbec, or Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc. But each region, or rather each locality, may require its own particular blending to achieve its potential. Some fine late-harvest dessert wines have been produced in New Zealand, notably from Riesling but also from Sauvignon Blanc and Gewurztraminer. Blending of different white varieties, including different blends for different terroirs, may produce an outstanding dessert wine. Who would be bold enough to suggest that each variety and clone of Vitis vinifera, when transferred to the New Zealand environment, may not perform differently in its new homes, and blended with another or others, be even more special?
New Zealand Ozone Hole Map Photo Gallery
The serendipity that was to associate the country New Zealand and the region Marlborough with Sauvignon Blanc was commercially cemented at a London wine tasting in 1984. In his 2006 memoir Wine: A Life Uncorked, Hugh Johnson, the doyen of British wine writers and the original author of the best wine atlas ever produced, captures the occasion colourfully.
The top floor of the 17-storey New Zealand House in London, near Trafalgar Square and commanding one of the best panoramas in town, qualified definitively as wine country in June 1984. Twenty or so wine journalists assembled, their expectations not, I suspect, as high as the venue, to taste the new vintage of New Zealand wines. A buzz soon started. Five or six of the wines were Sauvignon Blancs. This was Sauvignon with the volume turned up. I remember the surge of scent, the snap on the tongue, the hundred-amp shock through the system. Like Sauvignon or hate it, here it was in primary colours. Some tastes, I thought, are simply better at low volume.
Now we know that this is New Zealand’s potential, perhaps for any grape variety.
Her latitude corresponds to the places in the northern hemisphere where fine wines were born. Her volcanic soils can be embarrassingly fertile. In many places warm days are followed by cool nights; the recipe for concentrated fruit flavours. Whether the wine was calculated
Picking Syrah at Te Mata’s Bullnose vineyard in Hawke’s Bay. Murray Lloyd Photography to demonstrate all this with the most pungent grape variety I somehow doubt, but there was no doubt about the impact. A new wine idiom had arrived. It could recruit drinkers who had scarcely noticed wine before, and it has.