Are you an avid wine drinker like I am?
If you answered yes, are you a fan of crisp New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc?
If so, did you know NZ has many wine regions, other than Marlborough?
NZ is ultimately known for its Sauvignon Blanc from the Marlborough region, but there are many other varietals of wine and many other wine regions in New Zealand, other than Marlborough. NZ’s most successful varietal, Sauvignon Blanc, has a bright, citrusy flavor that immediately hits the pallet. The crisp, slightly grassy finish on a tasty glass of Sav Blanc is reminiscent of the glorious smell of freshly cut grass on a sunny Spring day. Every time I have a glass, I am brought back to my travels in New Zealand, where I am reminded of the bright blue skies, beautiful sunny days, pristine ocean waters, and miles of endless vineyards. (Yes, it’s basically paradise). Throughout my travels I also had the opportunity to pair up their indigenous white wines with locally caught seafood and whew, what a combination! The salty, fresh, and savory flavors of the seafood pair so well with the crisp, refreshing, summer like flavors of the NZ white wines. I’m not sure how these two items haven’t gained more popularity in the USA yet!
According to this NZ Herald article, How NZ Wine is Taking the US by Storm, in 2016, NZ wine exports to the USA jumped to $571 million. While 86% of wine exported out of NZ is Marlborough produced Sauvignon Blanc, they also make some other excellent varietals including: Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Syrah and Pinot Noir from regions all over NZ. I find that NZ Pinot Noirs are very similar to Oregon Pinot Noirs, in that they are very fruit forward, well balanced, soft, and easy to drink. Many of the Central Otago (South Island of NZ near Queenstown) Pinot Noirs finish with a nice spice. These wines pair very nicely with a heavier fish, like king salmon. One NZ Pinot Noir I highly recommend is Cloudy Bay from Marlborough . I had a chance to visit their vineyard last year and the 2014 vintage blew me away, (look how excited I look, it’s pretty ridiculous! Way too happy!) Another Pinot Noir I love is from Central Otago and ends with that delicious spice indigenous to the region. The vineyard is called Peregrine and their 2011 vintage is spectacular.
NZ Chardonnays are also excellent and pair very well with local oysters and scallops. Many NZ Chardonnays have a nice buttery finish, but aren’t as heavy or acidic as California wines. Some Chardonnays have a nice citrusy taste such as Matua, in Marlborough, which is one of my favorite Chardonnays. I highly suggest you do a taste test comparison with California Chardonnays and NZ Chardonnays and see what you think! (I dare not say this when I go to Napa though!)
In the article, NZ wine is taking the US by Storm, New Zealand wine critic John Saker makes an excellent point when he says the light fruitiness of NZ wines perfectly complement prevailing culinary trends. He states, we’re eating lighter foods than we were, say, 10 years ago. New Zealand’s wines have a fresh acidity to them and they’re great lighter-style wines which go well with the food people are eating these days”. Amen! I couldn’t agree further! Furthermore, he also argues that American tourists are coming down to New Zealand, tasting the wine, saying, wow, these are good; then spreading the world around the USA. One advantage to NZ wines is that they retail for around $10 USD, which is the sweet spot for millennials. Mark my words, you will see these wines gain in popularity over the next few years!
If you are a regular Sauvignon Blanc drinker, it’s possible at one point in time you’ve had it with some delicious, fresh, seafood. While NZ Sauv Blanc have growing in popularity in the USA, so too has New Zealand seafood. Some of the more popular seafood caught in NZ includes: greenshell mussels, snapper, bluff oysters, and king salmon. NZ King salmon is often listed on the menu at many high end restaurants including Jose Andres’s Bazaar Mar, down in Miami, and is absolutely delicious. I recommend it either as a sashimi grade or pan fried. Either way, the fish flavors pair so well with the crisp, grassy taste of the Sauv Blanc or a luscious and fruity Pinot Gris.
Greenshell mussels are also quickly becoming the world’s most sought-after shellfish and I highly recommend giving them a go if you see them on a menu somewhere. Grown in a clean and pure environment, these mussels have a sweet, tender taste and a higher meat to shell ratio than any other mussel. I’m quite surprised I don’t see them on more menus in NYC! In addition to their superb taste, they are also the ultimate health food. They are high in protein and low in fat, providing a great source of omega-3s free from EPA and DHA. They are also a great source of iron, Vitamin B12 and iodine. Look how big these guys are, I’m loving it! Check out: www.aquaculture.org.nz/ for more information!
While on my last trip over to the South Island of NZ, I had the opportunity to try some other fantastic local NZ seafood and was blown away by how great it was. The bluff oysters are huge and remind me a bit of West Coast oysters, however the NZ oysters were not sandy at all and left a very creamy taste in my mouth. Sadly, I believe you can only find them in NZ now, but just look at these big boys, it’s almost worth the 12-hour trek from the West Coast just to gobble them up! (I should have bolded that word ‘almost’. That flight is LONG!)
While in the small fishing town of Nelson, NZ where my company is located I had the opportunity to pair up my favorite Sauv Blanc with some locally caught NZ species you may not have heard of including Alfonsino, Red cod, Bluenose, Hake, Hoki, Dory, Ling (Cod), and Orange Roughy. Full list of NZ species available here. I have spoken to many chefs and people in the food industry and they tell me they are always looking for the newest trends and new foods to play with and I’m quite surprised some of these NZ species have not made it on more menus. Please leave me a comment below if you have had any of these species before
One species I am a huge fan of is Alfonsino. This species is also widely popular in the Japanese culture because of their brilliant red upper body. The flesh is white with a firm texture and high oil content. It is delicious in sashimi format, as well as cooked. Although it is not too common to see a whole fish put on a menu in NYC, the few times I have had it, it’s been spectacular. Give it a go if you see it somewhere!
Another species I am a big fan of is Hoki (other names include: blue grenadier, blue hake, New Zealand whiptail, or whiptail hake). Hoki meat is delicate, succulent, and white with a medium flake when cooked. I love Hoki in fish and chip format, but have also had pan seared and baked Hoki that was amazing! Hoki is usually sold in fillet format and its thick flesh is rich in omega-3 fatty acid making it a healthy food. Its mild texture is perfect for many American consumers and is the reason why McDonald’s often uses this fish in Europe.
Please comment below if you’ve had some fabulous NZ wines and/or NZ caught or farmed seafood lately, I would love to hear about it! Cheers!