Who is the fairest of them all

“Is New Zealand wine better than Australian wine?” I was recently asked by a student in my wine class. I avoided answering the question by telling the student that I’d once asked a brewer how important water quality was in the brewing process. “If you’ve got a good source of water it’s absolutely critical, if you don’t it doesn’t matter a damn”, was the brewer’s artful reply.

I was implying that most Australians would claim that their wine was better while a majority of Kiwis would assert the opposite.

Trans-Tasman superiority was recently put to the test in a wine competition called the Five Nations Wine Challenge. It compared the best wines from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Chile and Argentina. Each country supplied its very best wines in 14 different categories such as Chardonnay, Sparkling wine and Pinot Noir. The wines were tasted blind by a judge from each country (I represented New Zealand).

New Zealand did very well, but Australia was overall top scorer. At a similar competition last year New Zealand was the winner. Each country has its own strengths and weaknesses. New Zealand expects to do well in Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir for example while Australia can afford to feel slightly smug in the Shiraz and Semillon classes.

My two featured wines were the top Bordeaux-style blended red and top Cabernet Sauvignon. They can rightfully claim to be the best examples of their respective styles in the southern hemisphere.

Best Bordeaux-style blended red: Craggy Range Sophia 2009 – $70

This stunning wine is a blend of Merlot (65%), Cabernet Sauvignon (25%), Cabernet Franc (7%) and Petit Verdot (3%). Although it’s a powerhouse with the ability to age for at least a decade the wine is surprisingly accessible now. I noted flavours of ripe plum, blackcurrant, mixed spice, toasty oak and an appealing floral character. – view on bobcampbell.nz

Best Cabernet Sauvignon: Kidnapper Cliffs Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 – $55

Like Craggy Range Sophia, this wine was made from grapes grown in the Gimblett Gravels district of Hawke’s Bay. It is the first vintage of a brand new, highly prestigious wine label that seems set to make a rapid name for itself. A very pure expression of variety and place with dense, powerful flavours of cassis, mint, cedar and mixed spice plus a hint of violets. It’s hard to imagine a New Zealand Cabernet Sauvignon getting much better than this. – view on bobcampbell.nz

First published in KiaOra Magazine – Nov 2011.

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