Sunday, January 20, 2008

New Zealand wine- vintage charm n’ zeal

If you are going all the way to New Zealand, then there's something you must do - taste some wine. New Zealand is not just a Rugby Union nation or a country of sheep or a bungy jumping destination, it's a great place for wines.

The wine industry has made rapid progress in a very short time. Vineyards spring up in New Zealand almost every week, just like fast food shops elsewhere in the world.

Why this affair with wine, one might wonder. Its climate, geography and the passion of the people combine to produce some premium quality wines which are 'the riches of a clean, green land'. Says Stonyridge Vineyard proprietor Stephen White, “The maritime climate, with its low summer rainfall, long hours of sunshine, sea breeze,and also the type of soil that help in producing some of the best wines. Besides, the long, slow ripening period also helps in retaining the vibrant flavours.” He should know as his flagship wine -- the Bordeaux-style Stonyridge Larose - is considered one of the finest reds in New Zealand.

The subtle variation in weather conditions and contrasting landscapes - from native bush to snow-capped mountains and bright coastline - help in producing different varieties of wine, some of which are regional specialities.

On Waiheke Island in the north, for instance, the stony soil and the hot sun are just perfect for Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Waiheke is famous for its reds and the wines of this region are pretty high up on the connoisseurs' list.

Chardonnay is New Zealand's most widely planted variety and Gisborne is known as the chardonnay capital. Hawke's Bay produces some great Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec. Marlborough is considered Sauvignon Blanc country, while Central Otago is famous for its exciting Pinot Noir.

With such an amazing variety on offer, wine tourism is a rage in the country. Visitors get a feel of the vineyards, interact with the workers, and soak in the aroma. Annual wine and food festivals are also held to spread the culture, and most wineries invite you for a tasting.

Many of the larger vineyards run restaurants and cafes as part of their business, where you can pick up the wine of your choice. The Kiwis are passionate about their wines, and they are bagging internationalawards. What started off as a cottage industry is now a global success story. It's pure vintage stuff.

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