I was recently fortunate enough to be invited to the Canadian launch of the New Zealand VIneyard Nobilo’s Regional Collection Sauvignon Blanc. I found the wine to have good body and, for me, a surprising amount of sweetness and characteristic tropical fruit notes, though with a crisp, tart finish. The astringency was nice and cleansing, with a long finish that I think it would make a wonderful summer evening tipple, especially with multiple light nibbles.
As welcome as an opportunity to drink refreshing Sauv Blanc on a hot summer’s day may be, it was Kiwi winemaker David Edmonds’ background knowledge that carried the day. I got to play quizmaster and am happy to share the following fun Q + A with you:
Appetype (MS): Many tend to equate New Zealand with regions of Canada in terms of being cool climate wine producers. Would you say that is a fair comparison? What makes New Zealand so unique?
Dave Edmonds: I would say it’s a fair comparison though NZ doesn’t get the heat that Canada does. Marlborough generally tops out at 28 Celsius, though we have a longer growing season with warm days and cooler nights. Many people wouldn’t know that Marlborough is actually pretty dry, receiving only 400 ml of rain per year.
MS: Typically known for your Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, once the seasons cool over here, people tend to gravitate towards heavier and bolder wines. For me, there would still be great pairings with pre-dinner aperetivo and the like – can you give us your thoughts on Sauv Blanc beyond the appetizers?
DE: The Sauv Blanc is nice and crisp so It is a great wine for aperitif, though I also think it makes a great juxtaposition when paired with rich food as it cuts through the fatty notes quite well…even on something like Rosemary Lamb.
MS: Some wine regions (Chile) entered the market place as unassuming and affordable table wines, and only recently started breaking with the stereotype of budget wines. New Zealand, however, appears to lead with the focus on quality as opposed to price. Was this a conscious strategy or more of an economic reality in terms of the cost of wine production itself?
DE: To a large extent New Zealand is limited by the quantity we produce. Even fully-planted, we can’t afford to do ‘cheap’, though I do think that with our specific conditions, we create a unique wine that’s difficult to copy, so no real need to embark on a price war.
MS: I find the Nobilo history fascinating, being from a Croatian background myself. Are you currently using any methods which reflect directly on the Nobilo’s homeland?
DE: More than anything specific, Nikola had an entrepreneurial spirit. There was no local wine available so he made his own. Always innovative and strongly researched, he took New Zealand wines to the world.
MS: New Zealand wine had an additional obstacle to overcome in terms of not having a wine culture to speak of…
DE: Yes – for a long time alcohol wasn’t to be served after 6 pm, which made dinner and wine difficult in a restaurant. That gradually eased up with BYOB though, but we were slow in getting there. In fact our vitis vinifera really only took hold commercially in 1973.
MS: South Africa, Australia and New Zealand have always been great sporting rivals. When it comes to wine, and assuming there is a common thread amongst southerners, are you rivals or comrades in arms?
DE: Definitely comrades. On one of my first wine programs overseas (in Germany) I was set up with a group of South Africans…they proved to be great guys.
MS: Is there a grape you wish you could effectively work with in New Zealand?
DE: I’ve always been intrigued by the Blaufrankisch from Austria ever since I tried it over there.
MS: If not New Zealand, where in the world would you love to create your ultimate wine (and why)?
DE: The chance to make big reds is always appealing…California or Spain would be my choices.
MS: Best New Zealand wine and food pairing ever?
DE: I would say Kina (the Maori word for the local New Zealand sea urchin) and pasta – the iodine and flint pair perfectly with the Nobilo Icon Sauvignon Blanc