Wine Down Under

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A glass of red wine, with an Australian flag background.

Greetings fellow wine drinkers. I have enjoyed spending time with our seasonal and European guests, talking about their cultures and, of course, their favorite wines. While sitting down with some of them we all came to one simple conclusion. One country, in particular, is underrated in its wine accomplishments. I am, of course, speaking of New Zealand. Our brothers down under have been growing some great grapes over the last 40 years and have produced excellent wines, most notably Sauvignon Blanc.

Geographically speaking, New Zealand lies at latitudes 36 degrees to 45 degrees south. What does this mean? Well, with its rivers running throughout it and its valleys and hilly regions it resembles the German Rhine region. The alluvial valleys are rich in mineral deposits and superior drainage which produce all types of grapes.

Broken up mostly into five regions, Northland, Auckland, Hawke’s Bay, Marlborough and Canterbury, each has a distinct geography to produce excellent varietals. Waiheke Island, east of Aukland, is most noted for its production of Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chardonnay. The epicenter is the Hawke’s Bay and Marlborough regions, known for being the oldest growing regions in the country, as well as their notable Bordeaux blends, Sauvignon Blanc and up and coming Syrah wines.

To say there is just one wine I would choose from New Zealand would be a lie. The country has so many new and exciting wines to experience annually that I would suggest you visit your local retailer. Inquire which wines have been producing notoriety and purchase a few for your wine tasting experience. Our restaurant offers Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc and as an all-around experience, it’s pretty good. One of the best I have tasted is from Dog Point Vineyards and its Section 94 wine is excellent at around $30.00.

The other wine I would recommend is a Syrah, and as red’s go they can produce some very awe-inspiring vintages. Craggy Range’s Le Sol Hawke’s Bay 2013 leads the charge down under, scoring 98 points {we never discussed the point system in my column, perhaps next month.} It is a personal favorite at around $30.00 as well.

So, next time you want to try something new, try a little thunder from down under! Until next month, remember that old friends, like old wine, always improve with age.

Chris Bacus, Ciao Italian Restaurant