Most Pinoy dudes know exactly three things about New Zealand. The first is that they have more sheep than they have people (roughly 27.6 million vs. 4.7 million, according to a 2016 census). The second is that it’s where Peter Jackson filmed The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies. And the third is that New Zealand is home to Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement, otherwise known as the comedy duo and novelty band Flight of the Conchords.
In this installment of Supermarket Guy, allow us to introduce a fourth bit of New Zealand trivia: they produce fantastic white wines—particularly, Sauvignon Blancs. On the northeastern tip of the South Island is the region called Marlborough, known for its particularly dry, sunny climate simultaneously cooled by winds from the South Pole. It turns out, this climate is similar to what one would find in the famous Sauvignon Blanc region of the Loire Valley in France, so the grape feels right at home in this “goldilocks zone” on the other side of the world. If you’re looking for something easy to drink (and easy on the budget) besides light beer, Marlborough is a good place to start. It was, after all, the region that made New Zealand’s reputation as a wine-exporting country. Here are some great supermarket finds:
Just like the bottle that holds it, Matua is a white wine with a clean, refreshing first impression. Its name comes from an old Maori word meaning “head of the family,” a reference perhaps to the 100 or so small vineyards all over Marlborough that sell their harvest to this winery. Since the wine is blended from many different vineyards, each bottle is a fairly good representation of Marlborough’s Sauv Blanc harvest for that particular vintage year. Of course, we use the term “vintage year” very liberally here, since New World vineyards are almost always irrigated, unlike their counterparts in the Old World which (by law) have to rely exclusively on the year’s natural rainfall. This makes the quality of Marlborough harvests fairly consistent year after year—and it shows. Matua’s dry, uncomplicated palate and citrus nose is typical of most New Zealand whites, at a price point that is (dare we say it) nakakatuwa.
Monkey Bay is named after a beach in Marlborough where, according to legend, an escaped pet monkey was once spotted. Like Matua, Monkey Bay is made from “bulk” wines, with raw materials harvested from many different vineyards. The difference is in the winemaking style. Monkey Bay is blended to evoke a more fruit-forward palate, with hints of grapefruit, kiwi, pineapple—even lychees. It’s still crisp and clean, but its body can hold its own when paired with the usual chicken and seafood. It’s even more surprising with Asian dishes like sushi and dim sum.
Lastly, we have a Sauv Blanc that is remarkably different from the first two. Unlike Matua and Monkey Bay, Spy Valley comes from a single, family-owned estate winery, so named because the vines grow right next to a sprawling complex of unmarked satellite dishes. Rumor has it that the nearby base is a CIA listening post that secretly monitors 90% of all global telecommunications. This has no effect on the wine itself, of course, except that it certainly adds a layer of mystery to the brand.
Just like the two previous Sauv Blancs, Spy Valley is also a dry, refreshing, fruit-forward white. But because it was aged longer, possibly in oak casks or (as some winemakers do it) in stainless steel tanks with oak chips, Spy Valley is more complex, more mellow, and a little more mysterious. In a row of Marlborough whites, I’d recommend drinking this last, if only to appreciate the deepening progression of wine-making styles.
One last word of advice: whatever white wine you buy, always remember to serve it chilled. (11 degrees Celsius is the usual recommendation.) You just might discover that cold beer isn’t the only thing worth drinking on a hot summer’s day.
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