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Wine of the Week: Two Stunners from New Zealand

What have I learned about New Zealand this week? 

They make some freaking awesome wine down there!

Ask me today where I want to go wine tasting and my response would be “New Zealand.” Shall we buy tickets today? On this wine blog I have shared some of my “ah ha” wine moments. Those personal wine epiphany’s when new insights into wine are recognized.

The two stunners from New Zealand.
Recently, I received a couple of bottles of New Zealand wine from my friends at Pasternak Wine Imports. A bottle of Sauvignon Blanc and a bottle of Pinot Noir. This distant part of the wine world has largely been ignored by me. When I opened these bottles, I did so with the expectation that the wines would likely be simple, light, food wines. I was wrong, I was surprised, I was thrilled, I was stunned at how good these wines tasted.

"It seemed to dance around and did not let me pin it down. It refused easy definition. I enjoyed that."

Stylistically, both of these New Zealand wines are beautiful representations of varietal. Each of these wines could be their respective definition for Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. They were that good. Sauvignon Blanc is one of my favorite wines and the 2011 Dashwood, New Zealand, Sauvignon Blanc impressed. Pinot Noir on the other-hand, I could count on one hand the bottle of Pinot Noir I have appreciated. I have not enjoyed many. After drinking the 2010 Goldwater from the Wairau Valley, I'm beginning to understand the attraction to good Pinot Noir. This Pinot Noir rocked!

Pinot Noir, I'm finally starting to appreciate it. As Mr. Data once said, “I get it!” Before I go into more detail about these two wines, I'd like to explore where these wines came from.

About New Zealand Wine Country

New Zealand, this country is about as far away from where I live, as you can get on this planet. So my knowledge about the country and its wines is understandably modest. My limited notions of New Zealand include: oh yeah, that place where they filmed Lord of the Rings. Don't they make white wine there too? Sauvignon Blanc I believe. Are they sometimes called Kiwi's? Hmm, it's an island near Australia and has a city named Christ Church. Right? Oh, and earthquakes... they have bad earthquakes. 

New Zealand Map:
North Island and South Island, Marlborough region highlighted.
New Zealand is divided into two main islands, North Island and South Island. New Zealand has a long 15,000-kilometre coastline which has its own unique diversity. The West Coast is rugged and untamed while the coastal highlights of the East Coast are its gentle sandy beaches and harbors dotted with islands. Straddling two tectonic plates and sitting on the Pacific Rim of Fire has resulted in geothermal areas and volcanoes, some of which are still active.

  • As of 2011 there are 698 New Zealand wineries, with 33,600 hectares in wine grapes, the largest being the Marlborough region with 19,024 hectares. 
  • Sauvignon Blanc is the largest varietal produced, making up 50% of total production, with 16,758 hectares, followed by Pinot Noir at 14%, with 4,803 hectares planted. 
  • Exports by country are lead by Australia 31%, the UK 27% and the USA 21%.
  • There are 8 main New Zealand wine regions: Auckland, Gisborne, Hawkes Bay, Wairarapa, Marlborough, Nelson, Canterbury, Central Otago. 
  • Source: New Zealand Winegrowers

Marlborough Wine Region
Map: Marlborough Wine Region.
Both of the wines I received come from the Marlborough region. Marlborough is at the top of the South Island, and can be reached by air or ferry from Wellington. The city of Blenheim is at the region’s heart, and is just a short drive from the Marlborough Sounds. Marlborough is New Zealand’s largest wine growing region. It has the reputation for producing wonderful Sauvignon Blanc. It also is developing a reputation for high quality Pinot Noir.

Oz Clarke, a well known British wine critic, commented on the 2010 New Zealand Pinot, “It's lovely and allows me to wear mink in public again... and high heels...Pinot lets me do that...” Link is to a youtube video of Oz.

Marlborough including Wairau Valley

The Wairau Valley and the districts surrounding Blenheim is the largest wine district in terms of production and area under vines. It has a number of sub-regions including the Waihopai valley, Renwick and the Spring Creek area.

"Big thumbs up for New Zealand wine."

About the Wines

The first bottle I opened was the 2011 Dashwood Sauvignon Blanc. The Dashwood brand was developed by Vavasour Wines in 1989. It provided flexibility within the company’s portfolio to have the Dashwood range as a blend of fruit from Marlborough’s Wairau and Awatere Valleys. Created by long-standing winemaker, Glenn Thomas, who joined Vavasour in 1988, Dashwood wines are made in an earlier drinking style than those carrying the Vavasour brand.

2011 Dashwood Sauvignon Blanc

1. Sauvignon Blanc 2011 Dashwood, Marlborough

Sauvignon Blanc is one of my favorite white wines. New Zealand has developed the well earned reputation for producing some of the finest Sauvignon Blanc in the world. The 2011 Dashwood did not disappoint. It had a clear, yellow-green color. It drank bright, crisp and dry. On the nose it was grassy, with petrol, kiwi, vanilla and citrus. It balanced out with flavors of mango and lime and a clean finish. As the wine warmed, mineral and slate appeared on the nose, carrying through the finish. Lovely. I enjoyed this wine with baked chicken. Recommended.

ABV: 12.5%
Closure: Screw cap
New Zealand Sustainable Wine Growing
Sample provided by: Pasternak Wine Imports

Dashwood Wines/Vavasour Wines
Phone: 03 575 7481
Fax: 03 575 7240

The second bottle I opened was the 2010 Goldwater Pinot Noir. Goldwater Wines have been producing Marlborough wines since 1992. These wines are sustainably produced and nurtured through the growing season. Goldwater specializes in crafting wines exclusively from the Wairau Valley sub-region of Marlborough. The 2010 Goldwater Pinot Noir is selected from ultra premium vineyards in the Wairau Valley. The wine was aged in a mix of new and one-year old French oak barriques for a minimum of nine months.

2010 Goldwater Pinot Noir - Respect.

2. Goldwater 2010 Pinot Noir Wairau Valley, Marlborough

Okay, several times I've mentioned on this blog that I'm not a Pinot Noir drinker. I have never had an affinity for the variety, until now. The 2010 Goldwater Pinot Noir is likely, nope, it IS the best Pinot Noir I have enjoyed. Lovely, lovely wine.

Looking at the wine in my glass, it was clear ruby. Nose in glass, it was spicy, with an almost cherry, almost raspberry, almost casis aroma, and  underneath that was vanilla, and an almost candied intensity with some mint. How did it taste? It was almost earthy, almost a bit funky, with pepper, caramel, hint of chalk, light fruit body and light tannin. It was also smoky, peppery, with bright fruit, and almost cherry and plum on the finish. Balanced. After a glass, I found it very flavorful mid-palate. This wine was interesting, different, not what I expected. It seemed to dance around and did not let me pin it down. It refused easy definition. I enjoyed that.

Dinner I paired this wine with beef short ribs and mushroom sauce. Very, very good. An interesting wine, lighter than I usually drink, but after a couple of hours the wine really opened up. Wow! Big like. Strongly Recommended!

Note: If you're a Pinot Noir drinker you will likely enjoy this wine. If you are like me, not a Pinot drinker and one who tends to avoid Pinot Noir, then I encourage you to seek out this wine and change your attitude. Mine has changed for the better. Big thumbs up for New Zealand wine!

100% Marlborough Pinot Noir (100% Wairau Valley)
ABV: 14%
Closure: Screw cap
New Zealand Sustainable Wine Growing
Sample provide by: Pasternak Wine Imports

Goldwater Wines Limited
26 Rapaura Road
Blenheim, 7243 New Zealand
Phone: 03 575 7481
Fax: 03 575 7240

Both of these wines were provided by Pasternak Wine Imports. Contact Pasternak Wine Imports for pricing and availability in the United States,

New Zealand Wine Resources:
I was impressed by the quality of both of these New Zealand wines. New Zealand wine country is now on my bucket list of places to visit.

*update 7 May 2012: My New Zealand twitter friends have informed of a not to miss New Zealand wine event. Pinot Noir 2013 NZ. This NZ wine event will include tasting of more than 100 top New Zealand Pinots, the very best Pacific food, classic Kiwi entertainment and all on the waterfront of the capital city of Wellington.
Dubbed as the "fresh thinking" event, Pinot Noir NZ digs deeper into New Zealand's five Pinot producing regions, bringing the latest developments from the grass roots level. Learn of new innovations direct from the winemakers as they make available over 300 wines to be tasted and reviewed. Freestyle forums allow for uncensored opinions to be heard on the fastest growing wine story of the 21st Century.
Guest speakers offer opinions on the latest thinking about Pinot. Previous events speakers included Jancis Robinson MW, Oz Clarke, Tim Atkin MW, Allen Meadows, Claude Bourguignon, Andrew Caillard MW and more.

Let me know if you go, this will be an amazing event. I would love to attend.


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