Sideways in New Zealand’s Wine Country
New Zealand wine. It’s supposed to be all about sauvignon blanc, right? Really grapefruit-ty white stuff from the Marlborough region is liquid I’ve long classified UNDRINKABLE. The only New Zealand wine I sort of like is Kim Crawford Unoaked Chardonnay, and only because it’s unoaked. So, forgive me for having low expectations of New Zealand’s adult grape juices when we landed.
I never knew New Zealand had multiple wine regions.
On this eight day jaunt to the South Island, MTM and I visited two of them: Canterbury and Central Otago. And not once did we get schnockered on sauvignon blanc. I think I finally understood Miles Raymond, Paul Giamatti‘s character in the movie Sideways. His failure as a writer and his worship of pinot noir.
Because New Zealand makes some amazing pinot noir. And other stuff that’s not sauvignon blanc. Here’s a rundown of some of the stuff we drank.
The Banks Peninsula is the spur you see in the Canterbury section of the New Zealand map. It’s a collapsed volcano with a throat full of water and some of the blackest soil I’ve ever seen. The French were the first white settlers in the area. At French Peak Winery, our French hostess Heidi guided us through their adaptation of French wine making methods to the New Zealand climate. Their Pinot Gris was our favorite, though they also produce a lovely pinot noir and a French rose.
Kim Crawford 2013 First Pick Rose, Aukland region, North Island, New Zealand
We couldn’t resist a Kim Crawford, even though it wasn’t from a region we were visiting. The unoaked chardonnay and sauvignon blanc are available in the States, but this rose was the perfect picnic wine. Not to jammy. A little dry. A truly lovely rose.
Okay. I admit it. We stopped at Wooing Tree’s cellar door because 1. It was open; and 2. I thought the name was funny. No expectations. Certainly not that the walls would be spangled with awards for their very fine wines. We plonked down serious money for a bottle of their award-winning pinot noir, and it didn’t last two hours after we opened it. A nuanced, velvety, very yummy wine.
We bought a bottle of Shaky Bridge at the supermarket. It was cheap ($10 NZD) and highly rated. AND DIVINE. We sucked the bottle down on a rainy washout of an afternoon. It was perfect with a wood fire and some cheese. Not to mention cuddles.
Wooing Tree 2012 Tickled Pink, Central Otago region, South Island, New Zealand
Okay, what woman can resist a wine that’s called liquid lipstick? Tickled Pink is a dessert wine, but it doesn’t assault the drinker with cloying sweetness. It’s a grown-up, girl-knows-how-to-get-what-she-wants kind of wine. Even if that girl is MTM.
And, on that note, I’m headed back to finish off our stash of New Zealand wine before we fly out in the morning.
Have you ever visited a place that overturned your expectations? Tell us about it in a comment today.