New Zealand's ocean-influenced climate--markedly cooler than that of its neighbor Australia--yields wines with admirable fruit intensity and crisp acidity. Fully two-thirds of New Zealand's wine production is white, and more than half of the wine it ships to America is Sauvignon Blanc. The U.S. market has developed a major thirst for these juicy, fresh New Zealand Sauvignons, which are mostly free of oak influence. But New Zealand Pinot Noir, too, is growing rapidly in popularity here, thanks in large part to the emergence of the Central Otago growing region, which has exploded onto the world wine scene in the past five or six years with some stunning, fruit-driven Pinots.
High labor costs, considerable recent investment in frost-protection measures and the strong New Zealand dollar are just three of the reasons why the average bottle of New Zealand wine is relatively high--significantly higher, for example, than the average bottle from Italy, Spain, Australia, Chile, and Argentina. There's virtually no dirt-cheap wine produced in New Zealand. On the other hand, very little New Zealand wine sells for more than $40--a handful of bottlings of Bordeaux varieties or Pinot Noir--and white wine prices are mostly moderate.
Chenin Blanc Facts
From crisp, acidic and dry to acidic, staggeringly rich, and sweet
Depending on style -- salads, goat cheese, pate, foie gras
Known in the Anjou and Touraine districts of the Loire Valley as the Pineau de la Loire, the Chenin Blanc grape lends itself to an extraordinary range of styles, from bracing, bone-dry Savennieres and Vouvrays (there is also a sparkling version), to medium-dry or demi-sec, wines, to some of the world's most staggeringly rich late-harvest wines made in years that benefit from the arrival of botrytis. general characteristics of Chenin Blanc include citrus fruits, peach, pear, apple, and quince; spring flowers and honeysuckle; occasionally a lanolin/wet wool element; and assertive mineral and earthy notes, sometimes reminiscent of fresh, sweet mushrooms.
Chenin Blancs in both dry and sweet styles are noted for their longevity -- especially those from Vouvray. The very sweetest bottlings from Chenin Blanc are among the longest-lived nonfortified wines in the world. Note that, compared to Sauternes for example, sweet wines from the Loire Valley are lower in alcohol, higher in acidity, and dominated by the aromas and flavors of fruit rather than oak barrels.