If you think New York’s relationship to New Zealand doesn’t extend further than it being home to the cast/members of Flight of the Conchords, think again. New York is also the strongest market for New Zealand wine. Unlike Australia, which tends to export from its biggest — and, thus, least interesting — wineries, New Zealand exports wines by smaller producers, allowing us to taste some of the country’s better offerings. In September, Kiwi winemakers like to make their way stateside to pimp out their wines and meet the people who are already loyal imbibers. Mike Paterson, the winemaker for Jackson Estate, a family winery located in the Marlborough region, was in town last week, showing off his wines before heading back to New Zealand to prepare for the growing season, which starts in October.
“We’re never going to be able to sell at the volume [Australia] does,” he said, in classic anti-Aussie fashion. “We’re not [trying to].”
His most interesting wine is arguably Grey Ghost, the winery’s flagship Sauvignon Blanc, which is fermented using indigenous yeast and aged briefly in oak. It’s released a year after bottling, and so, at $25 a bottle, it’s a good value, with a satisfyingly weighty mouthfeel and mineral backbone to balance out the acidity and fruit.
According to Paterson, the depiction of New Zealanders on Conchords is pretty accurate. He said he’s known a Kiwi or two who landed in the Big Apple completely clueless and culture shocked. The winemaker celebrated his 38th birthday during the flight back home, or rather missed it, as it was lost in the many timezones crossed.