Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

The Great Kiwi Invasion

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

The Great Kiwi Invasion

Article excerpt

Byline: By Helen Savage

In a world of wine lakes and manic discounting, New Zealand goes serenely from strength to strength.

Exports of New Zealand wine to the UK rose again last year.

It seems we can't get enough of it, especially in the hugely competitive pounds 6 to pounds 7 band. We recognise quality and New Zealand has it in spades.

Just one statistic tells the story: New Zealand wines enjoy the highest average retail price per bottle in the UK at pounds 5.97 ( a whopping pounds 1.70 higher than their closest rival, Australia (I bet that chuffs the Kiwis more than anything else).

This success has been driven overwhelmingly by one style of wine from a single grape variety, Sauvignon Blanc. Marlborough on South Island now provides the classic expression of this zesty, headily-scented grape.

Although I'll happily admit to being an ardent Francophile, even I have to concede that, in blind tastings, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc attracts me more often and more consistently than its French competitors.

And yet, much as I enjoy its Sauvignon Blanc, there are other New Zealand wines that excite me just as much, if not more.

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to taste over 160 of the latest releases of New Zealand wine on the UK market. It was like my childhood dreams of being let loose in a chocolate factory.

Although, as usual on these occasions, I tried hard not to swallow a drop (an almost impossible feat), I only had the stamina to taste 86 wines.

But quite enough, I think, to get some idea of what was good.

The Sauvignon Blancs were as impressive as ever and of a very consistent standard, almost irrespective of price (well worth noting!) but, for me, Riesling and the unjustly unloved Chardonnay were the real stars among the (mostly) dry whites, while the king of the reds continues to be Pinot Noir.

Riesling is a wonderful grape, but I can well understand that not everyone warms to its smell ( something like a diesel spillage on a petrol station forecourt ( when it's grown in a warm climate.

Cheaper than the voguish Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio (of which there are some exciting examples from New Zealand ( especially from the up-and-coming region of Central Otago), the only downside to New Zealand Riesling is that it's not possible to tell from the label whether its bone dry or softened a little by residual sugar (exactly the same problem dogs Alsace wines). …

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