Its time for our annual trip downunder. This time we will be visiting Aotearoa, or the land of the long white cloud, also known as New Zealand. It’s the home of Sauvignon Blanc and more recently Pinot Noir. And while we will taste some of those wines, I’m looking for the new kids on the block, like Syrah which has been making serious inroads. Also a Cloudy Bay Chardonnay I tasted recently has made me hanker to taste more of New Zealand’s attempts at what is arguably one of the world’s most popular white wines, but not a wine that has brought New Zealand fame, at least not according to Robert Whitley.
Whitley wrote yesterday in an article the San Diego Union Tribune But I digress. As I was saying, I was on my way to New Zealand to judge the International Chardonnay Challenge in Gisborne. I can't believe I just used chardonnay and New Zealand in the same sentence. Oh, my! What is the wine world coming to?
As a judge of the ICC, and presumably a guest of his New Zealand hosts, Whitley really didn't need to pick on NZ chardonnay, after all the article was on the globalization of wine. You don't really win points with your hosts by that sort of attitude. Although I guess he doesn't care now as the event was held last month.
The article also suggested (to me) that NZ doesn't make good chardonnay but what ones I may find I can expect to taste pretty much the same as chardonnay from anywhere else. However from the (admitted limited) experience I have of NZ chardonnay they have more acidity than most Napa chards; making them much more refreshing and lively to drink. If they were more widely available in the USA, I could see them occupying space in my cellar. So while we are in NZ I'm certainly interested in seeking out chardonnays and finding out what winemakers see as the future of this variety in New Zealand.
We will be visiting wineries in four regions. Auckland, at the top of the North Island, then down to the top of the South Island to Marlborough and Nelson. This will be followed by a trip back to the North Island to the east coast and Hawkes Bay, and finally down to the bottom of the North Island to the Martinborough region near Wellington.
We won’t be visiting large number of vineyards. In fact I have tried to be quite selective, picking out 6 or 7 wineries in each region from among the recommendations made to me by members of various Australian wine forums. Although its late in the year and close to the holiday season many of the wineries I have contacted have been generous with their time. Replies from others have just listed information on the hours of operation of their cellar door, and so I imagine they want me to sample their wines as do other members of the public, and that is fine. All will get honest, critical reviews. But its obvious that the wineries that have offered to host us for a more intimate discussion of their operation will get more of my attention. Of course that could be good or bad!
The problem is what to do with the seven that have not replied. Are they so disinterested in the consumer that they don’t care to reply, just poor correspondents, too busy to reply, or has their email service gone down and they can’t reply? If they have a cellar door, should I make an attempt to belly up to the bar? If I come across their wines in our travels, should I buy them to taste? Maybe I’ll end up being too busy writing about all the excellent wines from the other wineries to care?