There was longer-term evidence of New Zealand's continuing progress in an increasingly tough and price-driven market. Twenty-five years ago, 47 New Zealand wines were flown to RAF Brize Norton then driven to London for the first ever UK wine tasting. At this year's 25th annual tasting, some 650 wines were showcased. So where did it all go right? In a sense, New Zealand's success story is a mirror-image of Australia's, but because it plants only two hectares to every 15 in Australia, it has had to make its voice heard by putting quality before big brands.
Eight out of 10 bottles are white, and the lion's share of those are sauvignon blanc. Marlborough is the main engine of sauvignon production with a distinctive aroma and depth of herbal and tropical flavours. Typically, the 2005 Matua Valley Sauvignon, £6.99, Tesco, has all the hallmarks of the style at an affordable price; similarly the juicy, gooseberryish 2005 Montana Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, around £7.99, Asda, Sainsbury's, Oddbins, some Majestics, £9.49, or buy 3 = £6.33, Thresher.
Further up the ladder, the Jackson Estate Sauvignon, with its smart new livery, £9.99, Tesco, displays that classic sauvignon pungency with a snap of gooseberry to match. The more you're prepared to pay, the greater should be the intensity of flavour, as is the case with Matua Valley's classic and powerful 2005 Paretai, £12.99, buy 3 = £8.66, Wine Rack, selected Thresher, the exotically passion fruity 2005 Astrolable Sauvignon Blanc, £13.50, Harrods (020-7730 1234) and the exceptionally powerful, Pouilly Fumé lookalike, the 2005 St Clair Pioneer Block 2, £14, Villeneuve Wines, Peebles (01721 722500).
The tough market Adamson is referring to isn't confined to retail shelf space here. New Zealand remains the benchmark for New World sauvignon, but only just. South Africa and Chile have upped the sauvignon ante, as a result of which New Zealand is wisely, if slowly, starting to branch out with other varieties: pinot gris, gewürztraminer, riesling and chenin blanc. Fine, aromatic examples of the new varieties include the tropical lime-zesty fruitiness of the 2004 Vidal Riesling, £7.50-£8.24, Kingsgate Wines, Winchester (01962 854670), Wimbledon Wine Cellar (020
The 2004 Palliser Estate Pinot Gris, around £9.99, Hoults, Leeds 01484 510700, is a dead ringer for Alsace pinot gris, only fresher and more opulent, with a full-bodied fruitiness balanced by citrus-crisp acidity. And James Millton's organic Te Arai Vineyard Chenin Blanc, £10.99, Vintage Roots, Reading (0118-976 1999) is an intensely flavoured, lightly spicy trailblazer for the Loire Valley variety. Only one in 10 bottles produced is red, yet the trend towards pinot noir, the so-called "heartbreak" grape because of its fickle nature, is now so unstoppable that hearts are only being broken among burgundy's producers. I aim to return to New Zealand pinot noir because there's a lot to shout about.Reuse content