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The Mass Media

Booze & Bravos

Massachusetts Finally Begins to Address Its Unconstitutional Blue Laws
Massachusetts Finally Begins to Address Its Unconstitutional Blue Laws

Thirty years ago when New Zealand began producing wine commercially, no one envisioned that wine making would flourish into an industry there, especially not one that would radically alter the landscape of the country and its culture. But that’s exactly what’s happened; sheep pastures have been planted over to vineyard land, and although agriculture is still the number one industry in New Zealand, it is viticulture that has embraced globalization and modern technology. Still, vineyard owners, mainly families and not corporations, are preserving the nation’s status as a clean, green land of exceptional natural beauty.

When wine growing regions are discussed in trade books and beverage magazines, New Zealand is often regarded only as a source of inexpensive and expressive white wine. Rarely does an article or chapter expound upon the nation’s unique terroir or speak of other varietals produced there like perfumey pinot noir and rich, dense syrah. The lack of information seems puzzling though when it seems that no wine region shows as promising an oenological future as New Zealand.

The distinctive terroir there, the peculiar and particular aspects of soil, sun, slope and climate in each vineyard is like nowhere else on earth, and this terroir can sometimes vary from one hillside to the next. A vineyard in Hawkes Bay will therefore produce markedly different fruit from one in Central Otago. These lessons are learned eventually in most wine regions, but because of the undeniable youth of the New Zealand wine industry, early planting errors have only recently been corrected. Ten years ago, the most planted grape in New Zealand was Muller Thurgau, a little known grape from Germany that makes simple, dry white wines. Fast forward to today and ninety percent of the MT in New Zealand has been torn up, replaced by Sauvignon Blanc which is now, by far, the most planted grape in the island nation. New Zealand is therefore not only a great place to visit, but also a great source of delicious value-oriented wine.

Central Otago, where the Lord of the Rings trilogy was filmed, is now home to some of the world’s best Pinot Noirs. What’s so extraordinary is that the grape has only been planted in the region for fifteen years! Otago is also the southernmost wine region in the world, and the cool ocean breezes, long hang time, and volcanic soils there, and elsewhere in New Zealand create an environment that begs for grapes to be grown.

So what should you look for? Most wines from down under are relatively inexpensive, but they certainly won’t be the cheapest wines you’ll see in the wine store. Fish in your pocket for an extra fin and treat yourself tonight with one of these delicious

Kiwi wines:

Highfield Estate Sauvignon Blanc- Like most Marlborough Sauvignon Blancs, this is an expressive white wine, crisp and fruit forward. It boasts flavors of grapefruit, lemon grass, fresh herbs and gooseberry-a little-known fruit that combines the tartness of a green apple with the sweet ripe flesh of a white peach. Irresistible? For sure. And at $15, it’s an incredible bargain. Great with seafood, grilled fish, and salads; a perfect summer wine.

Huia Riesling- A fabulous dry white from outstanding producers Claire and Mike Allan of Huia Vineyards. The wine has excellent acidity, as well as length on the palate, two characteristics that allow it to pair ever-so-gracefully with food. Citrus-laced with notes of green apple and mandarin orange, it is a wine that will match spicy Asian cuisine as well as simply prepared summer seafood. It will also age well for up to ten years, if you can resist drinking it for that long. Also $15.

Oyster Bay Pinot Noir- Ripe strawberries, cherries and raspberries tickle your mouth after each sip of this Kiwi red. It is classic New Zealand Pinot Noir, light to medium-bodied, fruit forward, yet with a gamey spiciness that perks up even the most bland food or downtrodden palate. Think of it as seasoning to what you’re eating. It will pair nicely with grilled salmon, but also with roast leg of lamb. And it’s relatively easy to find, and only $15.

The difference between great wine and poor wine can be as little as five dollars or as much as five thousand. By knowing which wines to choose, you can almost always find spectacular values that will please your mouth and your wallet at the same time.

If you ever get to New Zealand, be sure not to miss the bungee jumping or cave tubing. But until then, just soak up the sun outside, close your eyes, and pretend you’re there, on mountaintops, pristine beaches and fecund green fjords, drinking vibrant and delicious wines. Cheers!