John Wilson: Perfect New Zealand wines for summer drinking

Put vibrant Riesling and world class Chardonnay at the top of your shopping list

New Zealand is a relatively small wine producer but it enjoys the second highest average price per bottle and has recorded 25 years of consecutive export growth.

New Zealand is a relatively small wine producer but it enjoys the second highest average price per bottle and has recorded 25 years of consecutive export growth.

 

New Zealand wine has enjoyed huge success on the world stage over the past two decades. The country is a relatively small producer, 14th in world terms, but it enjoys the second highest average price per bottle and has recorded 25 years of consecutive export growth.

Sauvignon has been the driver behind that success story, now accounting for 71 per cent of all wine produced and 88 per cent of all exports. That does not leave much room for all the other grapes. But fans of Sauvignon Blanc will be shocked to learn that yields in Marlborough are down by some 30 per cent in 2021. Perhaps it is time to cast the net a little wider and look at other grape varieties.

The cool dry climate in Marlborough and other wine regions of New Zealand is perfect for producing a wide variety of other white wines, all sharing that fresh purity of fruit, and crisp lime acidity. They are perfect for summer drinking with or without food. The three most planted white varieties after Sauvignon Blanc are Chardonnay (6 per cent), Riesling (1 per cent) and Pinot Gris (5 per cent). In addition to these, Gewürztraminer, and more recently Grüner Veltliner and Albariño, show promise. 

The standard of winemaking is consistently high in New Zealand, and provided you avoid the very cheapest wines, you are unlikely to go wrong, either with Sauvignon Blanc or the other grape varieties. Brancott Estate, Oyster Bay, Villa Maria and others, along with private labels, are regularly offered at €10-€12 a bottle and represent good value for money. I tasted the entire entry-level range of Villa Maria white wines for this article and there wasn’t a dud bottle.

I would put Riesling and Chardonnay at the top of my shopping list. New Zealand Riesling tends to be vibrant and bright with ample pure fruits and a dry finish. As the price increases there are some very good wines. Look out for names such as Rippon, Pegasus Bay, Felton Road, Framingham and Muddy Water.

In the rush to enjoy Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay has certainly been overlooked. Producers such as Kumeu River, Felton Road, Ata Rangi, Neudorf and Craggy Range all produce world class Chardonnay. There are others too. As for Pinot Gris, it tends to be made in the rich and rounded Alsace style, rather than the lighter Italianate Pinot Grigio. Here again, there are some very good wines. As well as the wine below, I am a big fan of Pinot Gris from Huia, Greywacke, Neudorf and Dry River. 

As for the red wines, Pinot Noir has been increasing every year yet only amounts to a mere 7 per cent of total production, while other reds including Merlot Cabernet and Syrah combined make up less than 4 per cent.

Villa Maria Marlborough Riesling 2020
12%, €11 down from €16
Delicious fresh pure red and green apple fruits with a crisp dry finish. A great aperitif or with light summery salads. Great value at €11.
Stockist: SuperValu, supervalu.ie

Paddy Borthwick Pinot Gris 2019, Wairarapa
14%, €17.95
Succulent rich cantaloupe melons with a smoky touch and good refreshing acidit, classic Pinot Gris. Try it with creamy chicken curries, including Thai green prawns or chicken tikka masala.
Stockist: Wines Direct, Mullingar, winesdirect.ie

Forrest Estate Albariño 2019, Marlborough
13%, €19.95
Mouth-watering peaches and apricots cut through with a lively zesty citrus acidity. The plump fruits would go well with scallops.
Stockist: Jnwine.com

Babich Headwaters Vineyard Chardonnay 2019, Marlborough
14%, €29
Medium to full-bodied with smoky toasted hazelnuts, creamy nectarines and red apples with lime zest. Drink this alongside creamy mushrooms, turbot or barbecued prawns.
Stockists: Avoca, Ballsbridge and Rathcoole, avoca.com; Blackrock Cellar, Blackrock, blackrockcellar.com; Clontarf Wines, D3, clontarfwines.ie; Deveney’s, D14, deveneys.ie; D-Six Wines, D6; peggykellys.ie; Higgins, Clonskeagh, higginsfflicence.ie; Redmonds, D6; redmonds.ie; Sweeneys D3, sweeneysd3.ie; Mitchell & Son, D1, Sandycove and Avoca, Kilmacanogue and Dunboyne, mitchellandson.com; Lotts & Co. D4, lottsandco.ie; SC Grocer, Deansgrange, hcgrocer.ie.

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