New Zealand is a tiny wine producing region in world terms but has managed to carve out a hugely influential niche for itself with their unique take on Sauvignon Blanc.
This week, however, I am focusing more on their red wines even though they are quite a small part of their production in comparison with the juggernaut that is New Zealand Sauvignon.
New Zealand’s most famous region is Marlborough of course in the north west corner of the South Island, which is where the bulk of Sauvignon is grown but you should also watch out for Pinot Noir from here, plus of course Chardonnay, Riesling and the odd Pinot Gris.
Marlborough represents 77% of all the grapes grown in New Zealand and while much of it is white, Pinot Noir is grown on 3,000 hectares here and can be savoury and complex, elegant and supple.
Cloudy Bay is the region’s most famous producer and is producing their 30th vintage this year.
I tasted my way through some of their older vintages at the recent New Zealand wine fair.
Oddly I preferred the older whites and the younger reds (it is supposed to be the other way around!).
Cloudy Bay is not nearly as exclusive as it once was and is now relatively easy to find but the team assured me that this was more to do with allocation than increased yields or production.
While Marlborough is the region you are most likely to see on a bottle, grapes are grown throughout the country — from sub-tropical Northland at the top of the North Island to Central Otago over 1,000 miles to the south.
No vineyard is more than 80 miles from the sea and the maritime influence of sea breezes, along with warm sunshine-filled days and cool nights are exactly the conditions that wine grapes like.
My recommendations below include three reds from New Zealand at the middle and upper end of the price scale, as you probably already have a favourite inexpensive Sauvignon Blanc.
There are very few New Zealand wines that I like which cost under €15, so I have put in some bargain wines for anyone still struggling with Christmas credit card payments.
BEST VALUE UNDER €15
Chateau Beau Rivage, Bordeaux Superieur, France — €10
Stockist: Dunnes Stores
A few of the better Dunnes Stores shops have had a major facelift and the wine and beer sections have also upped their game.
Dunnes Rathmines is one of the nicest supermarkets I have ever been in and I picked up this modern fruit-driven Bordeaux made mostly with Merlot.
Ripe black plum fruits, some cedar touches and lingering sweet fruit on the finish.
Paco Y Lola Albariño 2014, Rias Baixas, Spain — €13
Stockist: Dunnes Stores
If you’ve read this page before you probably know I’m a fan of Albariño and while this is not the most complex version of the grape on the market it is great value with lots of peach and pear aromas and some good acidity.
Try with some seafood or spicy Thai food on a cold winter day.
Pleno Tempranillo 2014, Navarre, Spain — €9.99
Stockists: JJ O’Driscolls, O’Donovans, No 21 Shops, Ardkeen, Vintry Rathgar
This won red wine of the year in the Gold Star Awards a few years ago and recent vintages are equally as good.
Navarre can turn its hand to any grape variety and this shows lots of bright plum and blackcurrants, a ripe and characterful fruity palate. Excellent for the price.
BEST VALUE OVER €15
Felton Road Pinot Noir Bannockburn 2014, Central Otago, New Zealand — €46.95
Stockists: James Nicholson Wines Crosgar www.jnwine.com, Corkscrew Dublin
Central Otago is home to some of New Zealand’s very best Pinot Noir and there are few more lauded producers than Felton Road.
The Bannockburn has lovely expressive red fruits on the nose, a savoury complex palate and lingering tart cherries on the finish.
Trinity Hill Pinot Noir 2014, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand — €22.99
Stockists: World Wide Wines Waterford www.worldwidewines.ie , Red Nose Wine Clonmel, Florries Tramore
Hawkes Bay is in the South East corner of New Zealand’s North Island and is the oldest of New Zealand’s wine regions.
The climate is best known for its red wines.
Ripe red fruits on the nose and palate — strawberry and raspberry in particular, earthy touches on the finish.
Two Paddocks “Picnic” Pinot Noir 2013, Central Otago — €28
Stockists: Curious Wines Cork www.curiouswines.ie , Red Nose Wines Clonmel
Actor Sam Neil makes serious wines from his small winery near Dunedin in Central Otago.
The label includes a picture of Sam on a family picnic and is a good intro to his style of wines.
Approachable fruity style with ripe cherries and raspberries with some earthy Pinot character on the finish.
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