Best Italian Wines New Zealand Made
You don’t have to go to the source to drink world-class Sangiovese or Montepulciano. According to Condé Nast Traveler, some of the finest Italian wine is made right here in New Zealand.
When it comes to wine, New Zealand is best known for its fruity sauvignon blancs and sun-kissed pinot noirs, and no wonder: They’re delicious, easy to drink, and aggressively marketed to an international audience. But during a recent trip to New Zealand, Condé Nast’s Krisanne Fordham discovered New Zealanders might actually be keeping their best wines to themselves – “think world-class merlot and syrah, and finer still, some outstanding Sangiovese and Montepulciano.”
“But don’t just take my word for it,” Fordham writes. “At the recent Air New Zealand Wine Awards (ANZWA), a wine competition judged by local and international judges, New Zealand winemakers took home Gold and Silver medals for multiple Italian varietals, including the obscure Marzemino, a light, plummy red mainly produced in northern Italy and not especially known beyond it. Some winemakers, like Heron’s Flight Matakana, have even gone so far as to produce only Italian varietals, experimenting primarily with Sangiovese and Dolcetto and creating Italian-style passito (sweet) wines.
“Having previously lived in Italy, a stone’s throw from Abruzzo, the birthplace of Montepulciano, I was shocked to find that Trinity Hill’s 2014 Monty was some of the best I’d had, well, anywhere. It was inky, medium-bodied, and savoury, with great acidity and flavors of herbs, spice, and dark chocolate – classic Montepulciano, yet dancing with the freshness and vibrancy characteristic of New Zealand wines. Could it be that the Kiwis are making Italian wines even better than the Italians? Experts seem to think so.
“‘A few years ago, it was quite hit-or-miss, but now New Zealand winemakers have really hit their stride with Italian grape varietals. The quality has grown by leaps and bounds,’ says Fongyee Walker, head of Dragon Phoenix Wine Consulting in Beijing and a wine consultant for Air New Zealand. ‘Many Italian grapes grow well on slopes and hillsides, and in volcanic or alluvial soils – all of which New Zealand has. Throw in a moderate climate and amazing sunshine, and you get these wines with great purity of fruit flavours.’
“And though it’s early days yet for Italian varietals in New Zealand, that’s exactly why you should pay attention. Italian varietals comprise less than five per cent of all wines produced in New Zealand, but they’ve consistently been winners: rich, ripe, and textured, with the natural acidity and freshness typical of New Zealand wine.”
Original article by Krisanne Fordham, Condé Nast Traveler, January 13, 2016.