With the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, 2020 is a year many people may want to forget. And the forthcoming Christmas, New Year and holiday period - when New Zealanders escape to their baches, boats and favourite holiday spots - will be celebrated with even more enthusiasm than ever.
Bubbly, bubbles, sparkling wine – whatever you want to call it – is the tipple of choice for any such occasion and sales typically soar at this time of year. But no longer is this ‘party-in -a bottle’ drink reserved for just special occasions. The uplifting nature and food matching qualities make it an increasingly popular choice in bars, restaurants and home entertaining – at any time, for any reason.
New Zealand produces a characterful selection of sparkling wines which are gaining in popularity – helped by more and more consumers questioning provenance over prestige – and top quality bubbly is being produced right here in New Zealand.
Traditional winemaking techniques, combined with the New Zealand’s cool climate and plentiful sunshine, produce impressively high quality sparkling wine and balanced, well-structured wines can be found across a wide range of styles. They are predominantly Méthode Traditionnelle from the classic varieties of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but the range also includes aromatic styles like Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc.
Hallmark characteristics include nutty, biscuity aromas, balanced with fresh acidity and fruit. It’s the precise fruit expression, naturally high acidity and mouth-filling palates that have given New Zealand’s sparkling wines a reputation for depth, finesse and drinking pleasure.
And like other New Zealand food and beverages, sparkling wine comes under the country’s ‘Made with Care’ banner – a government initiative to promote great tasting nutritious products from a place you can trust. New Zealanders share a special connection with the land and sea founded on care, respect and an understanding that when nature thrives, we all thrive.
Marlborough produces a significant portion of New Zealand’s sparkling wine – the South Island region’s cool climate and high sunshine enhancing characteristics like crispness, structure and defined fruitiness. Interestingly, the benchmark quality and well established production has attracted investment by French Champagne Houses to produce their own classically Marlborough sparkling wines.
Such is the stronghold in Marlborough, local producers have formed a group known as ‘Méthode Marlborough’ - a society of highly regarded wine makers who want to communicate the quality and heritage of their sparkling wines. The group is dedicated to promoting wines made only from Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier and all ‘Méthode Marlborough’ wines are made in the traditional method. This means the second fermentation is in the bottle and aged for a minimum of 18 months before intricate disgorging takes place allowing complex flavours to develop.
Gisborne, Hawke’s Bay and Central Otago are New Zealand’s other key sparkling wine producing regions – all with points of difference. Gisborne’s sunny climate helps deliver fruit-rich wines which are considered ‘generous and approachable’ in style and also renowned for good value.
Also on the North Island’s sunny east coast, Hawke’s Bay is well suited to wine production and sparkling wines from this region are known to be complex and refined.
Deeper in the south of New Zealand, the famous wine growing region of Central Otago – better known for Pinot Noir – is also producing some remarkable sparkling wines. This is New Zealand’s most continental grape growing area and success is attributed to committed producers, attention to detail and a well suited climate. The region’s Méthode Traditionelle sparkling wines have a reputation as ‘firm, complex yet delicate’.
New Zealand sparkling wine’s high acidity makes it an excellent companion to food, which is also helping elevate its popularity beyond the usual role as a celebratory wine. Sparkling wines cut through the richness of pork and go well with many Chinese dishes. Sweeter styles (Demi-Sec or Doux) can be excellent partners to lighter fruit-based desserts or used as palate cleansers between the main and dessert courses. But the prime partnership of note is sparkling wine and seafood - great news for seafood lovers, at any time of year.
Did you know?
- You can gauge the quality of sparkling wine by the size of the bubbles – a rough guide is that the smaller the bubbles, the higher the quality
- The pressure in a bottle of bubbly is three times the amount of pressure in an average car tyre
- When popped, the cork can reach speeds of 64kmh and can travel more than 50 metres
- The only difference between sparkling wine and champagne is the region it comes from - authentic champagne can only come from the Champagne region of France
- The drink was created by a monk who discovered fermentation due to weather changes
- Marilyn Monroe allegedly once took a bath in 350 bottles-worth of champagne
- Bubbly contains less calories than many other drinks – a gin and tonic has seven times more
- Winston Churchill is said to be one of the biggest champagne drinkers in history – consuming 42,000 bottles (roughly two bottles a day) from 1908 - 1965