Speaking of island wines yesterday, at the prestigious International Wine & Spirit Competition last month, judging panel chair Luciana Lynch singled out New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc as one of the classiest and best quality wines in the world.
Such praise is actually nothing new for New Zealand’s sweetheart varietal, which has had top critics raving about the ‘unforgettable Sauvignon Blanc,’ and likening it to ‘a child who inherits the best of both parents’ (meaning the best characteristics of New and Old World grapes.) One critic even went as far as to say tasting New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc for the first time is comparable to a first time sexual experience. Well, maybe.
Although New Zealand’s wine industry is over a century old, Sauvignon Blanc cultivation appears to have only really begun in the 1980s. But wine production in the country has soared over the past decade and continues to do so, with its favorite white at the forefront of the movement.
New Zealand’s Asia-Pacific neighbors are expected to sustain and even fuel this growth. Ch’ng Poh Tiong, publisher of The Wine Review (the oldest wine publication in Southeast Asia, Hong Kong and China) recently spoke on the subject, noting that New Zealand’s wines were attractive to Asian consumers, who have a positive image of the small country’s cool-climate and ‘more boutique’ wines. The most popular varietals in Asia from New Zealand are Sauvignon Blancs from Marlborough.
Ch’ng explained that New Zealand’s quaint image and smaller wineries could be exploited to draw in the more mature industry markets of Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore, where consumers are interested in ‘the stories behind’ the wines. But Ch’ng added that the expanding Chinese market could be a complication for New Zealand winemakers because 95 percent of wines consumed in the country are reds. And he added that New Zealanders will also be battling Chinese perceptions that the best come from France.