The growth of the New Zealand wine industry over the past few decades is one of the great success stories in the world of wine. What’s all the more remarkable is that that growth has come along with a nationwide commitment to sustainability, shepherded by Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand, founded in 1997 and currently certifying over 96 percent of the nation’s vineyard land.
On this week’s episode of the VinePair Podcast, Adam Teeter, Erica Duecy, and Zach Geballe are joined by Clive Jones, winemaker and general manager at Nautilus Estate, to discuss New Zealand’s dedication to sustainability, learn more about grape growing and winemaking in the island nation, and examine how the wines have changed and evolved over the last few decades.
Or check out the conversation here
Adam: From Brooklyn, New York. I’m Adam Teeter.
Erica: From Jersey City, I’m Erica Duecy.
Zach: And in Seattle, Washington, I’m Zach Geballe.
Adam: And this is the VinePair Podcast. And guys, it’s another week of Covid.
Zach: Well, not for our guest, spoiler warning.
Adam: I know. Seriously, they’re the only country that’s really done it really well. which is probably why none of us will get to go there anytime soon. ‘Cause we’re all basically infected, even if we’re not, if you’re from America, I think it’s just assumed that you have Covid. So what are you guys drinking this week?
Erica: So this week I got a hold of a bottle of Plantation Rum. It was their 20th anniversary rum, and I made an Old Fashioned with it, and, oh goodness. So good. Rum Old Fashioned is my favorite. I know it’s my thing. And now that we’re moving into a little bit colder days, that’s all I can really think about having. I’ve been going between bourbon and rye Old Fashioneds and rum Old Fashioneds, depending on the day.
Adam: I want to tell you, Erica, I want to commend you right now because that’s not what I thought you were gonna say.
Erica: Oh, really?
Adam: I thought you were going to humble brag a little bit about that whiskey you drank this weekend that you let us know about at the editorial meeting. And I got super jealous, and I was like OK. Do you want to tell us what that was anyways?
Erica: Oh yeah, it was the Yamazaki 18, and that’s a really hard bottle to find. There’s not many of those around, so that was incredible. I mean the finish —
Zach: Where did you have that?
Erica: I had it upstate at a friend’s house and the finish on that whiskey is — it just goes on for many, many minutes and it is the most pleasurable whiskey I have ever had.
Adam: Yeah. I mean, you talked about it in the editorial meeting and I was like, man, this sounds ridiculous. Yeah. So I was, I was pretty jealous, but yeah, I wanted you to talk about it anyways. Zach, what about you?
Zach: Yeah, well thanks, Erica, for not leading with the incredibly delicious, incredibly impossible to find single malt.
So I this last week was drinking — I’ve been on a real Alsatian white wine kick. I taught a class on Alsace last week. And so, especially Alsace Pinot Gris, which to me is a category of white wine that I love, in part from being kind of exposed to it by visiting there a couple of years ago, and really is to me a quintessential fall wine. Because they’re often a little bit richer in style, not oaked, but the Pinot Gris as a variety is essentially red grapes that we make into white wine.
So it has a little bit of that kind of savory, earthy character to it inherently, even when it’s vinified white. And in particular, I think probably [the Zind-Humbrecht] Pinot Gris that I had a couple of nights ago, which is one of the top producers in Alsace. And it makes a lot of different wines but they’re just, it’s hard to say entry-level, but their basic Alsatian Pinot Gris is really delicious. And yeah, that’s kind of where I’ve been.
Adam: Amazing. So for me, I had this really cool drink. So on Sunday, since it was a long weekend, we went out to Governor’s Island. And, for those who are not familiar with what Governor’s Island is, it’s an old military base in the New York Harbor on an island obviously. It’s been turned into a public park and you take a ferry to get there, and now it’s actually really nice because thanks to Covid actually, they’re restricting how many people can be on the island at the same time. So you make reservations online and then you’re on a ferry that instead of being packed to the gills with people is actually very nicely spread out.
And you get to the Island and you have lots of space. You can rent bikes, you can do other things. And while it’s technically illegal, we did bring some alcohol with us. You’re supposed to only buy it from vendors on the Island, but we did bring some in and one of things we brought which I thought was really delicious — and I have to give credit to Aaron Goldfarb, one of our writers for introducing it to me — is Low Ball.
It’s this cider made by Shacksbury. And what’s amazing about this Low Ball is they have figured out how to use cider and make it taste like whiskey. And so they’ve created a Highball in a can, that is cider-based. So they age the cider in whiskey barrels for — they don’t say how long, I’m assuming it has to be longer than two or three months — but they age the cider and then they bottle it, carbonate it, and they add lemon to it, and a lot of the other quintessential whiskey Highball flavors. And it’s just absolutely delicious. It’s 5 and a half percent alcohol. Right. So it’s the perfect level of alcohol for walking around a large park basically. And just hanging out and very refreshing, really delicious. I was very impressed by it, and definitely plan to keep it on hand in the future ’cause it’s just, it’s really, really good.
Erica: That’s what I’m saying.
Zach: It reminds me, I wrote a piece for VinePair a few months ago on cocktail beers with the same basic idea of how do you transmit these kind of classic cocktail flavors through beer.
And I think someone I talked to talked about doing some things with cider, too, but I don’t think it made it to the final cut of the piece, but it’s definitely interesting to see just how much, how deceptively whiskey-like, or rum-like, or tequila-like, you can make a beer or a cider just through things like the aging vessel, and a little bit of creative, adjunct ingredients. But yeah, it’s definitely nice to have that flavor without all the booze.
Adam: Absolutely. Well, so let’s get into today’s topic because I’m really excited to have this discussion today. So today’s podcast actually is being sponsored by a New Zealand wine, and we are really lucky to have as a guest to talk all things New Zealand wine with us this week Clive Jones, a Nautilus Estate winemaker and general manager. Clive thank you so much for joining us.
Clive: It’s great to be here.
Adam: So most important question for you right off the bat, when it comes to New Zealand, where do you all get your same sense of humor from?
Clive: We need to be well-balanced, and we’ve got chips on both shoulders. Yeah. We’re a reasonably friendly bunch, I guess. And we take what we do seriously, but we don’t take ourselves seriously. And perhaps that is where the kind of kiwi sense of humor comes from.
Adam: Yeah. I mean, I have to thank you for giving me my favorite television show so far in Covid quarantine, “What We Do in the Shadows.” Which is just an amazing, amazing show. Yes, I love the New Zealand humor. It’s absolutely amazing.
Clive: But have you seen the movie?
Adam: Yes, I’ve seen the movie as well, which is amazing. The movie is amazing and now it’s even funnier to me because they’re on Staten Island as opposed to being in Aukland, but it is a really hilarious, hilarious show.
But in all seriousness, so it’s really exciting to talk to you about New Zealand. Obviously, I’m assuming most people who listen to podcasts are familiar with New Zealand wines, maybe some more than others. Erica, you have traveled to New Zealand twice. I know a big fan of the wines. I’d love you to just give us a little bit of an overview of what makes New Zealand so special when it comes to wine and why more people should have it on their radar in terms of a winegrowing region, if they don’t already.
Clive: Yeah, absolutely. So, I mean Zealand’s a long, skinny country down the bottom of the South Pacific. So you’re never very far away from the sea, even Central Otago, which is our most inland wine region. It’s still only two, two-and-a-half hours’ drive from the sea. So, we’ve always got this moderating influence from the ocean, so we’re definitely a cool climate. Even in the warmer parts of New Zealand, we’re definitely classified as cool climate. And we always get this vibrant refreshing style for our wines. Most known for our white wines, and Sauvignon Blanc particularly, we produce such a distinctive style that really has taken the world by storm. But we also make aromatic wines. Pinot Gris, more recently Albariño, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, and our Chardonnay is probably our best-kept secret. Chardonnay is one grape that grows actually throughout New Zealand. And again, with Chardonnay we can produce certainly nice complex wine, with that hallmark freshness, that freshness that gets you back to that seeking glass. And then on the red wines, really Pinot Noir is the major focus on the South Island of New Zealand and in the bottoms of the North Island. As it gets a little bit warmer up towards the middle of the North Island and a bit further north, then you can find a Syrah or Cabernet.
Adam: So New Zealand’s always been obviously a really great wine-growing region, and you did mention one wine that we have to talk about, which is Sauvignon Blanc. And I feel it’s now just become standard for Americans to expect that if they want a Sauvignon Blanc, it should come from New Zealand, and more specifically from Marlborough. What is it that’s made this wine, you think so attractive to us? That Americans are just so obsessed with it, and how has that impacted wine in New Zealand across the board? I mean, obviously I’m assuming it helped a lot of people grow their wine businesses, but what else has that done for New Zealand wines as a whole?
Clive: Yeah, look, I’m still completely amazed — you know, we’re not used to traveling around the world when you can see your face in the trade shows. Where you’ll get someone, if they haven’t tried a glass of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, before you give them a glass you say try this and their first reaction is “Wow.” And we get this particularly with Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, it’s got this natural high that’s the climate, the soils. You know, the variety just sings in this particular region.
And you know we do get quite distinctive characters that they’ve got good vibrancy, they’ve got quite powerful fruit flavors, so for some people they can actually be a little bit too bright in a way. But they’re so refreshing, and just delicious into the type which is the most important thing for wine, I believe. So yeah, it has taken the world by storm. I think a couple of years ago, about 28 percent of Sauvignon Blanc sales in the U.S. were from New Zealand, which is quite remarkable given the size and scale of our industry. Could well be more than that by now.
Zach: So let’s talk a little bit about sustainability and grape growing in New Zealand, because I’m fascinated by this. But I know that sustainability is a huge focus. I think probably for New Zealand as a country as a whole not just the wine industry, but can you talk a little bit about kind of how that manifests in the winemaking or in the grape growing, and maybe why it’s maybe more prevalent in New Zealand than say other parts of the world?
Clive: Yeah, well we made that call early on, I guess, so our sustainability program was initiated in 1997. So it’s been going over 20 years now. And the focus was that at the start on water use, waste streams, pests, and diseases. So it’s kind of monitor, measure, reduce, repeat. So really monitoring your inputs and outputs and making sure you’re doing it in the most sustainable way possible.
And so we set up the certification Sustain Winegrowing New Zealand, and we got a really good takeout from the industry to the point where we are now at about 96 percent of our vineyards are certified sustainable through sustainable wine-growing. And then there’s another 7 percent that are operating under other sustainability programs, site organics, or biodynamics. There’s a little bit of overlap there because some people take some certifications, but in more recent years, I guess we kind of look to broaden the scope of our sustainability program and we’ve reviewed it and kind of checked our wines up with the United Nations sustainability goals. And so we’ve introduced other aspects like climate change, people, and soil along with our waste, pests, disease, and water. And that sort of relates to that three-pronged approach to sustainability. You’ve also got heavy economic sustainability, and you’ve also got social sustainability as well, you’ve got to look after the people.
So the system has always evolved. And we were world-leading certainly, and particularly with the high level of takeout of sustainability with the New Zealand wine growers, and we can’t rest on our laurels. We’ve got to keep evolving and making sure that we’re doing the right thing for sure.
Erica: So you mentioned that there are a couple different aspects of what those focus points are, but can you just go through, I think there was six focus points that I saw, and talk through what each of those are?
Clive: Sure. So, pests and disease, so that’s monitoring any pesticide use, anything you have to use on the vineyards to control any pests and disease. This powdery mildew detritus that can affect grape vines, so we need to be able to monitor that, and mitigate those fits. So that’s in our spray program, but it’s all about doing it reactively, not based on the calendar. So, you’ve really got to justify anything you put onto the vineyard. Most of our vines in New Zealand are irrigated, and that’s driven partly by the fact that again, we’re a long skinny country down the bottom of the South Pacific. One of our big secrets is it’s windy, and Erica, you may have experienced a half-blown waster when you were here, I’m not sure when you were here, what time of the year.
When the wind gets up it really sucks the moisture out of the soils. And we’ve got a lot of vineyards started in riverbeds, and very stony soils. So, we’ve got quite sophisticated monitoring systems in the vineyards. So we continue to challenge how much water we use and look at reducing our usage. Waste is any sort of waste stream that we generate throughout the process of winegrowing. So I can relate to composting all of our skins. So that’s a quite common practice, producing a compost that goes back on the vineyards.
Climate change. It’s becoming more and more topical and we are starting to see it in New Zealand, but manifesting itself as a bit more variability over here rather than necessarily getting hotter. I mean, yes, we have had some warmer seasons but I did a vintage in Burgundy in 2004 and this year I’ve noticed that — I traveled just before harvest — this year I noticed that the company I worked for had finished harvest before the date I left the country last time. So in 14, 15 years the harvest has come forward almost a month. In New Zealand, we’re not seeing anything like that, though we may be up to a week earlier in the warm season, but we are seeing a bit more variability so we could get more frosts. We could get more rain during the harvest period. So we are starting to think about how and what we can do to mitigate that, both from a practice point of view on the vineyard but also reducing our carbon footprint.
So, we aren’t missing any impact we have on climate change. And we’ve got a goal of being net zero emissions by 2050 — which has been lead by the government. The government has set that as a goal for New Zealand as a country and in the wine industry where you see if we were ahead of the pack, we we want to match that, we want to make sure we were ahead of the game in terms of achieving that.
Obviously, soil’s really important. And now, with a lot more understanding on the low grounds part of the grapevine and how important that is — James Milton, who’s a well-known winemaker in New Zealand, he’s actually biodynamic but he says you’re not standing on the roof, you’re actually standing on the rooftop of another kingdom. And the low-ground kingdom gets all that microbiological activity, that is just so important. And then maintaining the health of the soil, as well as the health of the plant that you can see above the ground.
And also people, we’ve got social responsibility. We need to look after the people that are working in our vineyards and wineries. We rely on a seasonal labor that comes in from the islands. So we have a government-sponsored scheme that facilitates people coming in from the islands to work a season in the vineyards.
Now they come in and they work for a three- or four-month period. They work very hard, and they’re great workers, and they leave their home that may be one of the Pacific Islands. They’ll go and be in the community, take a cash injection that helps them maintain a lifestyle at home. That’s only a quick overview of the six elements, but those are the elements that we decided to focus on as an industry for sure.
Erica: Yeah, it’s so interesting. I was in Central Otago in January before the pandemic, and it was fascinating to me to see over the span of 10 years just how much the wines have changed.
And this article that we’ll be publishing this week, I’m looking at the Pinot Noirs of Central Otago and how vine age and winemaker know-how over that period has really created a revolution for the Pinot Noirs. So 10 years ago, the wines were what some people called “fruit bombs.” They were much more fruity and bright, and now, through this confluence of both the winemaker know-how and the older vines have become these incredible world-class wines with just so much complexity and beautiful structure. So I am working on this piece and have been thinking a lot about the evolution of not just Pinot Noir, but all of New Zealand’s wines over the past 10 years, and wanted to ask you, how have the wines of Marlborough and the Sauvignon Blancs, in particular. changed during that span?
Clive: Yeah, absolutely. That’s the unique thing about this, you get one chance a year to make wine and every year is different. So every year you learn something, so you’re able to apply those learnings back on to whatever you experience in the future. And certainly Sauvignon has evolved, probably it was more of the green grassy spectrum when it first took the world by storm back in the late ’80s. As we work on our chemistry managements and understand one of the distinctive characters about Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is the set of aromas that are called volatile files. And we discovered how to measure those, and there’s three chemical compounds with rather long names, but they give the, basically the passionfruit, passionfruit skin, and the boxwood-type characters. And we’ve measured them and now know that they are particularly responsible for things distinctive of Marlborough character. Yeah, and of course once we measured them it’s like well with a lot of things with wine, if this much is good than more is better. So there was a sort of swing to really great fruit-driven, punchy wines that kind of licked out of the glass.
They went too far, they were almost overpowering and you got almost a slight sweet character coming out of them. But we also found out that those compounds are relatively unstable. So they’re very, very important, but you can’t rely on them themselves. So you want a mix of flavors and aromas and, and a lot of the wines you see from the Marlborough area, and the Sauvignon Blanc area, regional leads because that’s what we’re trying to assemble all of those different flavor options and putting them together in a blend. The whole concept of blending is one plus one plus one doesn’t equal three, it equals four. So you get the synergistic effect and the different components working together to make a wine that’s, at the end of the day, more balanced and more pleasurable.
But I’d certainly say — same for Pinot Noir in Marlborough — that we’d gone through this 20-year period of having the right vines and the right clones on the right sites. And, so much of the structure our wine is coming from fruit. Whereas in the early days, you did have those fruit bombs that were sort of propped up by some nice oak character. Typically these days, they’re falling into the background and we’re getting much more structure from the fruit itself. And vintage plays a huge part of it.
Zach: Clive, I want to ask a very straightforward question, but to me, it’s one of the questions that comes up the most with New Zealand, which is why does everyone there use screw caps?
Clive: Well, I mean, it comes back to that we make these fresh, fruity, vibrant wines and for us, a screw cap is at the moment, the most appropriate closure that preserves those. Plus the fresh aromatics. And it was driven from the fact that we used to think that all the rubbish corks would seep down to the bottom of the South Pacific.
Yeah, and we did have a mess of problems with the cork taint, which just ruins wine. The cork industry has done a lot to improve that, but the wines with a screw cap do age. They evolve, they evolve probably a little bit slower, but they do evolve, and they evolve consistently.
So you can open a dozen bottles of a 10-year-old wine, and then they’ll all taste the same. Whereas if you’re making a dozen bottles of 10-year-old wine on the cork, you’re much more likely to get some variations. And it’s convenient, too, you don’t have to rush around to find a corkscrew, you can just pop it off and you’re away. So, yeah, we’re sold on screw caps at the moment.
Adam: And Clive, is that mandated? Or is that just an agreement that everyone’s doing it?
Clive: There’s no regulation at all. It’s just, that’s the way people feel as the best closure for our one wine cellars.
Adam: Wow. How, how large is the New Zealand wine industry?
Clive: We’ve got, just under 40,000 hectares. So what’s that about a hundred thousand acres? So we are very small. I’m just trying to think of a direct comparison to that, but we’re a drop in the ocean compared to California as a state by itself. So I think we make somewhere between 1 and 2 percent of the world’s wine but we do make more than we can drink ourselves. Because we’re only a population of 5 million, so that’s why we we do seem quite well for our season and look for people to help us out consuming it.
Adam: So I mean obviously, in the early days when you started thinking about sustainability, it wasn’t as much on the forefront of consumers’ minds. But now it very much is, amongst our readers, et cetera. How have you seen that change in terms of the consumers that you’re interacting with? Twenty years ago when you guys were talking about sustainability, did you find that you had to explain more to consumers what you were doing and why, and is it now a lot easier for them to understand why you would do this and actually value it and be willing to pay more for it?
Clive: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. So we have the sustainable certification logo on the back of our bottles. It’s part of every conversation I have with wine buyers or consumers directly, if you’re in that situation. So it is important.
And look, in New Zealand we’ve got ahead of an awakening about the Maori culture, the indigenous people of New Zealand, and they actually have a really strong philosophy on sustainability as well to say they have a couple of concepts. One of which is called tikanga whakapapa, so that’s our equivalent to terroir if you like. Another word beginning with T that is perhaps difficult to explain, but sort of the broad translation is, tikanga whakapapa is it’s a place where you stand, a place where you feel empowered if you need to. It’s the foundation, it’s your place in the world.
And that makes so much sense from a winegrowing point of view, if I’m standing in this vineyard making wines from this piece of soil. And, you feel really connected to it and that relates, Erica, to how much progression you’ve seen in the wines in the last 10 years with a real much deeper understanding of sight and how it influences particular wine styles. And the other concept that the indigenous people use is kaitiakitanga, and that’s about guidance and protection. So and that sits really nicely with sustainability in terms of the wine industry.
So, you’re managing an environment where the people are closely connected to the land and nature. And the simplest way of putting it as, as they say, you don’t inherit the land from your parents, you borrow it from the children. So it’s about making sure that, in fact, we’re being smarter about preservation as well. We’re also starting to improve it and restore and you start with your restorative agriculture as a bit of a new bus. And it’s not just about maintaining the current situation, we want to make it better. So we’re getting frank heading ahead of the garden.
Erica: I was going to say, I think that was one of the things that really came across to me when I was in New Zealand earlier this year is just this commitment to both stewardship of the land and the transparency of the terroir and really looking at the site specificity, looking at the specific vineyards and what is the message that they are trying to convey. As I visited a dozen different vineyards and talked with all the winemakers, I think I’ve never been to a wine region where literally every single person I talked to was on board with the idea of this continuous improvement of this forward-thinking idea of passing along a better place. It was just such a unifying experience that I haven’t found in any other wine region or frankly, any other country that I’ve traveled to, where literally there’s an entire community that is thinking and committed to moving forward in pretty much almost the exact same direction. Some people are doing biodynamics, some people are doing organics. Some people are doing the other sustainability programming, but it’s really a unifying characteristic of the winemaking community.
Clive: Yeah. Look, we, we are a cooperative community of winemakers, we help each other out. We share our knowledge. We understand. When we’re traveling overseas, often the first conversation we have is about New Zealand. Thankfully more people know where we actually are now. Since The Lord of the Rings came out. But yeah, it’s a conversation about New Zealand. It’s a conversation about region and perhaps variety, and often the conversation about your brand is well down the track in terms of what we’re talking about. So we do have this community feeling and yeah, absolutely the industry has grown tremendously, but it’s still relatively young. And I guess probably in the last 10 to 12 years, there has been the opportunity just to perhaps — not focused so much on growth, but understanding of the resources we’ve got and how to keep the beast out of the vineyards and also help to protect and preserve them. So there’s a little bit of maturity coming into the industry from that point of view.
And then also I think now if I think back 20 years, particularly with Pinot for instance, we’d be going, “Yeah, let’s look at some Pinots. Let’s look at a lineup of Burgundy” and say, well, how close are we? Are we making wines like this yet? And now we’re actually going, we absolutely respect and aspire to the wines of Burgundy, but we’re not trying to make wines like Burgundy, we’re trying to make the best New Zealand Pinots that we can. And we’re much more confident in our sites and our style. And so it’s more about celebrating what we’re doing and, but still respecting the history of the Old World, but we much more self-confident in what we’re doing ourselves. We’re not trying to make Burgundy. We’re trying to make the best New Zealand unites that we can.
Adam: That’s really awesome. Well, Clive, I want to thank you so much for joining Erica, Zach, and myself to talk a little bit about New Zealand wine. It’s been really interesting to get your perspective and to learn a lot about sustainability and just what the country is doing as a whole.
Clive: Thank you. Pleasure. And hopefully Adam and Zach, you might get to come down and visit sometime. Of course, Erica, you too.
Zach: Yeah. We’ll have to take the podcast on the road.
Adam: Totally. So guys, Erica, I need to hear from you now that we’ve heard from Clive, so you’ve been twice, right? I mean, what’s it like? I mean, I’ve obviously always seen it in the Lord of the Rings and things like that, but I’ve only seen the amazing pictures of New Zealand and I can only imagine what it’s like to actually be there.
And then to also see what the vineyards look at, but I’d love if you could tell us what your impression was when you went and why so many people are so enamored by it.
Erica: Yeah I mean, for me, New Zealand was really the place that changed my life from a perspective of falling in love with wines. So I had been to many wine regions before as a travel guide book editor, as a travel writer. And when I went to New Zealand, the wines and the wine community, the collaborative nature of the people, and just frankly, the incredible beauty of the place —it just struck me so viscerally that by the end of this trip that I was on, a couple of weeks in, all over the, North Island and the South Island and then ending up in central Otago, by the time I left, I said, you know what? I think I want to go into wine. So it had a huge impact on me. And that was a decade ago.
I mean, it really is one of the most gorgeous places that you could ever travel to. The people have the incredible sense of humor that you mentioned, but are just so cool and easy to talk to. And there’s this no tall poppies kind of idea. Have you heard this expression? So, what it is, is that people don’t want to stand out and talk about themselves. And so like Clive was saying, people don’t want to talk about their brands. They don’t want to talk about their individual winemaking and to shine a light on the amazing things that they’re doing.
They actually have a hard time, the winemakers, coming over to the States and talking about how great their brands are, because that’s just not part of the culture.
And so too, as a journalist to try to pull out the information about the very cool things that they’re doing, all of the trials that they’re doing, all of the amazing experiments and their individual vision is very difficult, but, these winemakers are among the most humble people that I’ve ever encountered in wine. And it feels like an underdog situation where as a journalist, I just want to do my part and tell the stories of the incredible wine that’s being made. This place that does not get the level of attention that it should. And from my perspective, how the Pinot Noirs have evolved over time, I think they’re frankly, some of the most exciting wines that are on the market today.
The article that I have coming out, it’ll be a couple of days after our podcasts launches, is really talking about how the wines have evolved over the past decade and what makes them among the most exciting in the world. So I’ll leave a couple spoilers. I won’t spoil the entire piece, but I really think it’s been one of the most pleasurable experiences in my career to watch the evolution of the wines from this country really get to the level where they can compete among the world’s best.
Adam: That’s awesome.
Zach: And I think what’s cool about New Zealand, and Clive mentioned this as well, and it’s an important point not just for New Zealand, but I think for a lot of other, younger wine industries is getting to that point where you are confident enough in the wines you make, in the quality of your fruit, of your terroir and of your wine-making people that you can say, Hey, we’re going to make the best possible wine we can and we’re not trying to make some that tastes as much Burgundy or Sancerre or whatever European wine people might be most familiar with me from this variety or these varieties.
And I think new Zealand’s a great example of that. I think there are some other ones that we’re seeing as well from, from other parts of the world where winemakers and wine regions have said, “we’re confident that we can make an amazing, delicious, interesting, complex, world-class wine. That is its own thing. And that has slightly different flavors and it has slightly different aromas than what you might be familiar with, but it’s as legitimate an expression of these varieties as the place where they might’ve originated or might’ve first become famous.” And that is, I’m sure, something that you feel Erica. And it’s something that I, as not someone who’s traveled there, but as someone who has tasted plenty of New Zealand wines over the last decade plus have noticed as well. And again, it’s just super exciting.
Adam: I mean, I think it’s a really good point. I think the biggest thing, right, that you should just be asking consumers is, is it delicious? And if it’s delicious and it’s enjoyable then why does someone else have to say “oh, and it’s also so Burgundian in style.” Right. That shouldn’t matter. It should just matter that the wine is really, really good.
And so, yeah, I love that answer, too, Zach, and I’m glad you brought it up. I thought the way that they talked about that was really interesting. And I do think it is really amazing. And we have a lot to learn from this country in the way that the entire country has really embraced this idea of protecting the environment. I know a lot of it does have to do with the fact that it’s such a gorgeous place. They want to protect themselves, but I wanted to ask Clive as well (but then I thought, well, I don’t want to get political here) but what have they done in New Zealand that really has forced the entire population to believe in all of this and to really realize that this is something that’s so vitally important? And what can we learn as citizens of the U.S. and take back from what they’ve done and say, here’s what New Zealand is doing? And here’s why it’s just as important here, and here’s what we’ve got to do to get you to believe in it as well.
Zach: Well, I mean you could look at some other things that they’ve done in New Zealand in the last, say, seven or eight months, better than us and maybe get a sense for, I don’t know, maybe just science being a thing that’s taken more seriously.
Adam: I mean, look, they do have a pretty amazing leader. She’s pretty awesome. So yeah, I do think they do just understand that when you need to listen to experts, you listen to experts. You don’t say that you’re the expert when you’re not. But anyways, guys, this was great. And I want to thank Clive again for joining us and New Zealand wines for supporting the podcast. It’s really amazing. This was a really great excuse to talk about a wine region I know Erica really loves, that I need to learn more about. Zach, I know you’ve never been there, as well. So yeah, thanks, this was a great conversation, as always. I’ll see you next week.
Erica: Thank you.
Zach: Sounds great.
Adam: Thanks so much for listening to the VinePair Podcast. If you enjoy listening to us every week, please leave us a review or rating on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, or wherever it is you get your podcasts. It really helps everyone else discover the show. Now, for the credits. VinePair is produced and hosted by Zach Geballe, Erica Duecy, and me, Adam Teeter. Our engineer is Nick Patri and Keith Beavers. I’d also to give a special shout-out to my co-founder, Josh Malin, and the rest of the VinePair team for their support. Thanks so much for listening and we’ll see you again right here next week.