If British Columbia wineries have a soul mate in the wine world, its New Zealand. Moreover, if we are to ever to carve out a niche in the highly competitive global wine market we would do well to ape some of the impressive goals and accomplishments of this tiny green island-nation in the cool, south Pacific.
Little in size but big in flavour, New Zealands wine growers are perfectly positioned to take advantage of their geography and climate to produce wine that is completely in tune with the modern palate.
Fruity, flavourful wine is all the rage today, with chefs and new consumers, and it is something New Zealand has to offer in spades. So how does a country of less than 3.8 million people develop an impressive international wine export program and do it all in less than three decades?
Hard work and pride are part of New Zealands success story, as is a strong sense of self-reliance. However, when it comes to quality, I think a friendly, yet super-competitive atmosphere between wineries is the real secret to their success.
Not only is peer pressure alive, well and working in New Zealands vineyards, you get the distinct impression that the sharing of information, equipment and knowledge among wineries is done so that one can take even more pleasure in besting each other on retail store shelves and/or at national wine competitions.
By constantly measuring itself against the competition, both domestic and foreign, New Zealand has pushed its quality bar higher and faster than most of its New World competitors. Several key attributes emanate from most every bottle of Kiwi wine that collectively result in the type or style modern-day wine drinkers are demanding.
A long growing season under cool temperatures, especially at night, captures and retains intense fruit flavour inside the grape. New Zealand growers refer to the phenomenon as "long hang-time" but whatever the nomenclature it allows most Kiwi riesling, sauvignon blanc, chardonnay pinot and even syrah to excel on the vine and later in the glass.
The fact that its food-friendly (it makes the food taste better and food makes the wine taste better) is another attractive quality of Kiwi wines. The same cool growing conditions that intensify the fruit flavours result in crisp mouth-watering wine that comes with sufficient natural acidity to keep it vibrant and make it ideal for pairing with a variety of foods: Indian, Thai, Japanese and Chinese as well as most any New World dishes involving grilled seafood and or meat.
Screwcap closures are here to stay despite what some recalcitrant wineries and retailers may think, and New Zealand wineries are global leaders. The easy-opening, twist-off closure gives everyone the confidence that each bottle purchased is in premium condition (free of cork taint) and will stay that way for many years.