New Zealand Wine Day

Overlooking Central Otago, NZ by Megan Eaves.
Overlooking Central Otago, NZ by Megan Eaves.

For most folks, Sauvignon Blanc is New Zealand’s most widely known wine. But unless you are a wine aficionado you may not realize that this small country off the coast of Australia produces many other fantastic varieties of red and whites. The other day, during what was dubbed, New Zealand Wine Day, I was able to sample an array of Kiwi wine. It was a night of firsts, as many of the wines were ones I never had before, and it was also the first time I exclaimed, “I think I like Riesling again.”

New Zealand Wine Day is the brainchild of Complexity, which strives to introduce and educate the USA on the great NZ wines available to them. In addition to hosting NZ Wine Day, an in-person and virtual tasting of several wines, Complexity also offers dinners, classes and tastings throughout the year so that guests can become familiar with the portfolio of NZ wine.

As for me, I was lucky enough to attend NZ Wine Day in person at Aureolerestaurant. While I ate the knock-your-socks-off delicious food, I also sipped on several different varieties of NZ wine. Here’s a recap of my standouts (including the one that inspired my Riesling epiphany).

Quartz Reef, Methode Traditionelle NV, Central Otago – This is a traditional sparkling wine that is fresh and fruit driven. On the light side, it was a great start for the evening.  I could easily see myself sipping this on a hot summer day with oysters.

2011 Mud House “The Home Block” Pinot Gris, Waipara Valley – A nice go-to dry white with a tart finish. Definite fruit flavors, but the sweetness is subdued.  A great wine to pair with a meal, as it can hold up to food nicely.

Spy Valley Envoy Riesling
Spy Valley Envoy Riesling

spy2007 Spy Valley Envoy Riesling – This was my favorite of the bunch. A true revelation for me, as I’ve struggled to find a Riesling that I like. Many Rieslings I have tried of late seem to be too sweet for my palate, and almost border on a dessert wine. The main reason this stood out to me was that in addition to the sweetness one would expect from a Riesling, there was an interesting oak flavor throughout. This is due to the unique aging process of this wine, as many are stainless steel-aged only. It gave the wine a complexity I don’t often find in Rieslings at this price point (about $30).

2012 VavasourSauvignon Blanc, Marlborough – A very fragrant, almost perfume-like wine, both in aroma and flavor. This wine is very concentrated which makes the flavors of passion fruit and green capsicum really stand out. A tart, almost bitter finish, but not so bitter that you lose the sweetness present.

2010 Seresin “Leah” Pinot Noir, Marlborough – There’s a beautiful red color to this wine, as well as an elegant, subdued flavor. When tasting, you get a nice earthy spice, as well as cherries, however, all are hints – not overly powerful flavors. A subtle and delicate Pinot Noir that I could see myself enjoying regularly.

2009 Felton Road Bannockum Pinot Noir, Central Otago – This Pinot Noir is definitely more flavorful and powerful than the Seresin, however, does so without knocking you out. It’s a spicy, but very balanced wine with a long and rich finish.

2009 Villa Maria Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot, Hawkes Bay – A deep red with a strong aroma of blackberries and smokiness. As on the nose, the flavor is strong and rich with notes of chocolate and oak. With a long and dry finish, this red is almost a meal in its own right.