Report From TexSom 2012: New Zealand Wines Go Beyond Sauvignon Blanc

At TexSom, the international wine conference going on today at the Four Seasons Resort and Club in Irving, we just tasted a stunning flight of wines from New Zealand. One of the most interesting things about the selection made by Cameron Douglas, MS and co-presenter Andrew McNamara, MS was the range of grape varieties. New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs is a big seller in Dallas, and the country’s Chardonnay is picking up as well, but this tasting also included Pinot Noir, Syrah, Merlot, Malbec, Pinot Gris, and Riesling from the land of the Kiwis.

A 2010 Greywacke ‘Wild’ Sauvignon Blanc ($30) from the Marlborough area is flying off local shelves. It is a classic New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc with bright acidity and a herbaceous nose. This label is one to watch. Owner Kevin Judd was the winemaker who put Cloudy Bay on the map. The 2009 Villa Maria “Taylor’s Pass Vineyard” Chardonnay, also from Marlborough ($18), was partly (17%) aged in new French oak. It showed in the taste but not in a negative sense. As they say in the industry, the oak was well integrated into the wine. This wine also came across as soft and voluptuous in the mouth by virtue of having been through a secondary fermentation, malolactic fermentation a process that converts malic acid (the acid found in green apples) to softer lactic acid.

Surprise below.

Spy Valley - Home of Pinot Noir and Spooks

The biggest surprise to me was the Pinot Noir, a 2010 Spy Valley “Envoy” Pinot Noir from Marlborough ($60). It is a bright, berry-laden Pinot that has an intense cherry expression in the mouth and surprising complexity. Incidentally, Spy Valley gets its name from a massive US/UK/Canada/Australia/NZ surveillance installation designed to monitor all cell phone traffic.

These wines are going to require selective searching in the Dallas market. However the searcher will be well rewarded. New Zealand has a cool climate and small producers encounter higher costs to make wine. They can only be successful by producing high quality and not low priced wine. Before the start of TexSom I wouldn’t  have thought the flight from New Zealand flight would stand out as a highlight. But it does.