Leave it to a duo of Boston sommeliers to broaden notions about New Zealand wine.
Earlier this year, Nick Daddona, beverage director of Boston Urban Hospitality (which includes Deuxave, dbar, and Boston Chops) and Lauren C. Daddona, wine director of Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse in the Back Bay, toured some of the Southern Hemisphere’s most breathtaking vineyards. The two are among the most respected wine professionals in town, and also happen to be husband and wife. New Zealand Winegrowers, the national trade association, organized the two-week trip, flying an international contingent of somms and writers to major wine regions up and down the North Island and South Island.
The Daddonas were keen on exploring wines that have little presence in Massachusetts. “I thought we were seeing a fairly skewed offering here in the States,” says Lauren Daddona, noting that sauvignon blanc — New Zealand’s most exported style — dominates the market. But Kiwi producers craft excellent wine beyond that white grape. “They’re not afraid to experiment and have no problem with innovation,” says Nick Daddona. Tasting an assortment of terroir-driven varietals, he says, “was like finding little points of genius.”
Back in Boston, the couple hosted a tasting that provided a glimpse into that range. A Martinborough pinot noir offered textured red fruit and scents of cedar. A syrah from Hawke’s Bay expressed dried fruit along with savory notes of jerky and black olive. Central Otago’s pinot gris and riesling were vivid and lively. Bottles like these can be had at both of the sommeliers’ restaurants, but what about retail?
The search proved challenging. Shop shelves were crowded with the grassy-grapefruity style of sauvignon blanc, but often little else. Sleuthing pointed to different varietal expressions in the market, but many — especially in the $30-and-under range — were out of stock or otherwise unavailable.
So what a pleasure to locate three in good supply: an exuberant pinot noir, a gutsy rosé, and a wild yeast-fermented sauvignon blanc, none of which are the usual suspects. Each serves as a reminder to ask your neighborhood shop for more variety from this corner of the globe.
“The world is ready to accept the diversity of what they make,” enthuses Lauren Daddona. “These wines really overdeliver.”
Greywacke “Wild Sauvignon” 2015 Kevin Judd, founding winemaker of megabrand Cloudy Bay, crafts wine under his own label. Using wild rather than commercial cultured yeast, this Marlborough-made pour offers white flowers and yellow fruits, leading to a multi-dimensional palate of citrus, stone fruit, and a smoky whisper of flint. Around $30. At Needham Center Fine Wines, Needham, 781-400-1769; Bacco’s Wine + Cheese, Boston, 617-574-1751.
Twelfth Night “The Terraces” Pinot Noir Rosé 2017 Winemaker Antony Worch of Vela Wines crafts this gutsy rosé in Central Otago. Waterfall fresh on the nose with peach, lemon blossoms, and citrus rind, this tart, dry pink is generous with red fruits and a touch of saltiness. Around $19. The Cheese Shop of Concord, Concord, 978-369-5778; Pemberton Farms, Cambridge, 617-491-2244.
Mt. Beautiful Pinot Noir 2016 Owner David Teece named his estate for the peak that protects vineyards from coastal winds of North Canterbury. This red is full of cherry-berry notes, an edge of appetizing bitterness, and subtle tannins. $25 to $30. At Boston Wine Exchange, Boston, 617-422-0100; Cambridge Wine & Spirits, Cambridge, 617-864-7171.Ellen Bhang can be reached at email@example.com.