New Zealand Vistas

Topsy-Turvy Down Under

Vineyards at Felton Road Winery, New Zealand /Photo Michelle Locke

Kia ora and greetings from the future.

I’ve crossed the international dateline this week on a visit to New Zealand and I still can’t quite get my head around the fact that it’s one day for me and the day before for everyone back home in the U.S.

One thing keeping me off-kilter may be the language barrier. I was at serious risk of caffeine withdrawal before I figured out that “flat white trim,” did not refer to house paint but rather means “Please be so good as to give me a shot of espresso topped with hot skim milk.”

I am happy to say that I was much quicker in figuring out what “You might want to move to the high side of the boat” meant.

Something that hasn’t been lost in translation is the wine. I came here expecting some zippy sauvignon blancs and that’s precisely what I found, along with some elegant pinot noirs which were a pleasant surprise.

A stand-out for me was Monkey Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2011 . This is made by the Constellation Wines company, my hosts this week, and it’s right in my wheelhouse. Moderate alcohol level, 12.5 percent, reasonable price, around $10, and a big juicy mouthful of fruit with a tart and tingly finish. We had it on the beach next to the actual Monkey Bay, a small cove in New Zealand’s Marlborough wine-making region where, legend has it, a monkey that might have escaped from a whaling ship hung out in the 19th century.

On the pinot side, I liked the 2007 Kim Crawford SP (Small Parcels) Pinot Noir made with grapes from the Central Otago wine region, an emerging area. This wine, also part of the Constellation portfolio, is intense and lush with plenty of dark cherry. If you are looking for a pinot for Thanksgiving, the traditional pairing, this would add some zip to the turkey and pick up nicely on the cranberry sauce.

Also memorable was a Chard Farm 2009 Riesling , another Central Otago wine. This is a delicate mix of apricots and apples with none of the cloying sweetness that usually makes this not one of my favorite types of wine. Chard Farm
is family owned and, confusingly, Chard is a local name and has nothing to do with the fact that they do, in fact, farm chardonnay.

But then again one has to expect a few semantic antics in a land where flip-flops are “jandals,” which makes sense only if someone explains to you it is short for “Japanese sandal,” and “togs” means swimming suit.

Come to think of it, I’ve got a little free time coming up, maybe I’ll be putting on my togs and jandals and picking up a flat white trim.

Have a nice yesterday.