Heading Down Under for New Zealand Wines


New Zealand is home to some of the world’s most beautiful landscapes - rugged mountain ranges, lush rainforests, and tranquil coastlines. What you may not know is that New Zealand’s unique terroir yields crisp, vibrant, and lively wines reflecting the very essence of this island country. Recent harvests were not only markedly bountiful (34 percent above usual yields) but grapes were exceptionally high-quality. Small estate wineries like Catalina Sounds, Crowded House, and Nanny Goat were direct beneficiaries of this good fortune, and took advantage of exceptional fruit to craft the following tasty lineup:


Crowded House Sauvignon Blanc 2015

The name Crowded House represents New Zealand's crowded yet unique Marlborough wine growing region as well as Crowded House Winery's mission to stand out in a crowded world of wine. The philosophy of winemaker Peter Jackson (no, not the filmmaking Peter Jackson) is to keep it simple sourcing top quality grapes from local vineyards. "I believe the most critical decision a winemaker makes is deciding when to pick. Once harvested, my role is to simply steer the fruit in the right direction in order to best express the vibrant fruit flavors that Marlborough is renowned for while respecting subtle differences as well," says Jackson.


The impact of summer drought that hit Marlborough in the summer of 2015 resulted in low crop yields but also grapes with excellent concentration and flavor. Specifically sourced from vineyards in the Wairau Valley and Southern Valleys sub regions, bright and focused aromas of guava, citrus, black currant, and sweet crushed herbs figure prominently on the nose while a solid minerality keeps the fruitiness at bay. A soft acidity with tart citrus lingers on the palate with well balanced astringency carrying the fruit flavors to a long pure finish. Equally enjoyable paired or on its own.


Catalina Sounds Sauvignon Blanc 2015

Inspired by the majestic Catalina amphibious flying boats that played a vital role across the South Pacific during and after World War II, Catalina Sounds Winery wanted to evoke a lofty New Zealand historical icon in its branding. In fact, the winery helps sponsor the maintenance and display of several originals for posterity.


In the spirit of revering the majestic grace of this plane as it once flew over Marlborough Sounds, Catalina Sounds Winery's production steps outside the norm to showcase the purity and vibrancy that the region's climate and landscape are naturally blessed with. Drought conditions again produced low yields but excellent flavor concentration. Sourced predominantly from their Sound of White vineyard in Marlborough’s Waihopai Valley, this vintage showcases a restrained yet powerful aromatic mix of herbal notes complemented by a well balanced minerality giving structure to the fruit. Tart apple and sweet fruit meet their match in this palate pleaser that's astringent on the finish. Makes a notable golden flourish in the glass while swirling.


Catalina Sounds Pinot Noir 2015

This Pinot blends 55 percent of its fruit from Sound of White vineyard and the remainder from Omaka Valley's Clayridge Vineyard. Fruit for this one is hand-harvested and de-stemmed into open fermenters. "Hot barrel ferments" are then drained into new French oak barriques, producing an essence of savory char. "Our growing season was dry, warm, and long, without excessive heat making it ideal for elegant flavor development while retaining natural acidity," says winemaker Peter Jackson. "Once harvested, the parcels were gently handled and really left to themselves to express each vineyard site as clearly and as naturally as possible. Ten months of oak aging afforded the wine time to soften and integrate prior to blending and bottling."


You get a classic Pinot balance of oaky stone fruit on the nose. Its deep garnet red has an enticing mix of red and dark berry fruits rising to the forefront with gentle dried herb notes in the background, soft lingering tannins, and a rich well defined bramble berry with mild spiciness and a slightly salty touch evoking Marlborough Sounds surf and breezes. Nanny Goat Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014 Named after the nimble and sure footed wild goats that roam the mountainous terrain of Central Otago, Nanny Goat Vineyard's mission reflects their determination to adapt and thrive in the rugged terrain and extreme climates that shape the vineyards' terroir.


Winemaker Alan Peters-Oswald sources grapes from New Zealand's Central Otago region, giving this lightly oaked Pinot a deep ruby with a youthful purple hue on the rim. Numerous small parcels of fruit were hand harvested and then fermented using indigenous yeast with the cap plunged three times daily at its peak ensuring gentle extraction of color and tannin. Twenty percent of the ten-month oak maturation takes place in new French oak barriques, with the remainder in one- to five-year old. You are greeted on the nose with suggestions of bramble and spice, gradually opening up to reveal more subtle floral notes complemented by mellow tannins with a fruit forward smooth drinking appeal. Rich darker elements of black cherry and plum linger long on the palate.

Photos courtesy of Crowded House, Catalina Sounds, & Nanny Goat Vineyards. Coverage made possible by participating in a sponsored tasting.

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