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Off to New Zealand

otago.jpgI'm excited. I'm about to hop on a plane for New Zealand. It's been about seven, perhaps eight years since I visited, and I'm looking forward to retracing some of my previous steps there, as well as exploring some new areas.

Courtesy of Wines of New Zealand, I'm headed down for a series of regional conferences highlighting some of the key elements of the New Zealand wine industry. The Kiwis are quite clever in their scheduling. Knowing that they're a fair haul from most places in the world, they schedule their three main wine events back-to-back, to allow folks like me to take in all three in one shot.

After a brief (jet lagged) dalliance on Waiheke Island, I'll be headed to Napier, the beautiful Art Deco town in the Hawkes Bay wine region, where I'll take part in a symposium on the region's wines with a special emphasis on the Gimblett Gravels terroir. I can't find a web site for this gathering, so I have only my itinerary as an indication that there is, in fact, something happening there this week, and apparently it involves a lot of blind tasting. I visited the Gimblett Gravels on my first trip to the country, and was intrigued by the potential of the Bordeaux grape varieties, but didn't taste a lot of Syrah. Since I've been there, Syrah has become an increasing focus for many producers, so I'm curious to see how it is developing.

After Hawke's Bay, I'll be headed down to Wellington, for the bi-annual New Zealand Pinot Noir conference, a celebration and exploration of Pinot from the land of the Hobbits. Luckily for me, I've got no responsibilities at the conference, so I can heckle my friends Jordan MacKay and Jamie Goode from the audience, and just enjoy a lot of fantastic Pinot Noir. My previous trip included visits to Otago and Martinborough, so I was fairly soaked in Pinot, and have fairly distinct memories of the wines. I'm looking forward to seeing whether the regional styles have evolved at all, as well as perhaps how things are aging.

After a few Pinot-soaked days, I'll be headed to the south island for the Nelson Aromatics Symposium, where I'll be joining a smaller group of participants to explore the country's production of aromatic whites: Grüner Veltliner, Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Muscat, and gibbston.jpgmore. I've had a decent number of New Zealand Rieslings, but with the exception of a couple Gewürztraminers and I've experienced little else besides Chardonnay and Pinot Gris from New Zealand, so this event will be quite an education for me.

Finally, I'll be taking a few days to dive deep into the terroir of Marlborough, which is one of the wine regions I skipped on my first trip. I'll be meeting with lots of smaller producers, and trying to find out what's happening on the bleeding edge of New Zealand's most mature and famous wine region.

I'll be doing my best to blog along the way, and have a few afternoons free where I'll definitely be able to do some writing, internet connectivity, blood alcohol content, and jet lag notwithstanding.

Looking at my photos from my first trip (including the two examples above) has got me salivating in anticipation.

Catch you on the flip side!

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Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson Wine Grapes The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson to cork or not to cork by George Taber reading between the vines by Terry Theise adventures on the wine route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud