New Zealand’s best red wines are elegant, light and very well made
There is no shortage of good Pinot Noir, and the nation’s Syrah is also impressing critics
The standard of winemaking is generally very high
Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc has enjoyed huge success in this country and elsewhere around the world. More recently, it is the red wines of New Zealand that have started to gain traction. The most popular New Zealand red variety is Pinot Noir. Most of the wines come from Marlborough, but arguably the best hail from Martinborough (or Wairarapa), Central Otago and Waipara. Each region has a distinctive style, but all usually have that lovely, soft, ripe, silky fruit that makes Pinot Noir so seductive.
The other variety that has been impressing critics, including this one, is Syrah. Most of it is grown in Hawke’s Bay on the eastern coast of the North Island, and more specifically on the Gimblett Gravels within Hawke’s Bay. If Pinot has a sweetness from the ripe fruit (despite being totally dry), Syrah tends to have a lightly savoury touch. It is often compared to the wines of the Northern Rhône, home to Hermitage and Côte-Rôtie, although I find the styles distinctly different.
There are two things worth remembering when buying New Zealand wine. It has a fairly cool climate so the wines tend to be at the lighter, more elegant end of the spectrum. Secondly, the standard of winemaking is generally very high, so you can buy with relative confidence. You won’t find many inexpensive Syrahs but there are plenty of good Pinots for €10-€15 in supermarkets and independents. Move up in price and you will come across seriously good wines that compare with their counterparts around the world.
There is no shortage of great New Zealand Pinot Noir in this country. As well as the two featured here, it is worth seeking out the following top producers: Rippon, Two Paddocks, Ata Rangi Burn Cottage, Neudorf, Felton Road, Framingham, Seresin, Mahi, Escarpment, Paddy Borthwick, Mount Difficulty, Craggy Range and Greywacke. Lidl has a very gluggable Marlborough Pinot Noir for €9.99. As well as the two Syrah here, look out for Trinity Hill, Dreadnought, Te Mata, Vidal and Villa Maria.
Pinot Noir can go well with seared tuna, salmon or duck, especially duck with a sweetish accompaniment such as cherries or a hoisin sauce. Baked ham works well, as does feathered game. Vegetarian dishes that include roast beetroot or carrots also work nicely.
New Zealand Syrah goes well with both red and white meats, especially if they are cooked with garlic and herbs. Black olives bring out the savoury notes nicely too. A platter of charcuterie and firm cheeses with olives should please all. Often, however, with either Pinot or Syrah, I am happiest with a good roast chicken and a green salad.
Hãhã Pinot Noir 2019, Marlborough
13%, €19.65 ,down from €23.95
Exuberantly fruity with supple, fresh black cherries and raspberries edged with a lightly spicy note. Try this with grilled salmon or duck.
From: Mitchell & Son, Dublin 1, Sandycove, and Avoca, Kilmacanogue & Dunboyne, mitchellandson.com; 1601 Off-licence, Kinsale; Ardkeen Quality Foodstore, Waterford, ardkeen.com; Gibney’s, Malahide, gibneys.com.
Villa Maria Cellar Selection Pinot Noir 2019
Floral aromas with lively red fruits – strawberries and raspberries with a clean, rounded finish. Serve alongside roast duck with peas and bacon.
From SuperValu, supervalu.ie; winesoftheworld.ie
Sacred Hill Reserve Syrah 2018, Hawke’s Bay
13%, €16.95 down from €19.95
Vibrant and juicy with blueberry and morello cherry fruits with subtle dark chocolate notes. A very attractive, moreish wine. Drink it alongside Toulouse sausages or mushrooms with lentils, or a firm cheese.
From O’Briens, obrienswine.ie
Tinpot Hut Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2015
Medium-bodied with smooth, savoury black olives and damson jam with a lingering spicy black pepper finish. Try it with garlicky herby roast pork, or maybe a rare steak. Alternatively beans with black olives, herbs and grilled aubergines.
From Clontarf Wines, D3, clontarfwines.ie; Ely Wine Store, Maynooth; elywinebar.ie; Fallon & Byrne, Dublin 2, fallonandbyrne.com; wineonline.ie.