Wine Report from the Fort
Northside San Francisco 1835 edition: In 1642, Dutch Captain Abel Janszoon Tasman is the first to sight “a large, high-lying land,” which today we call New Zealand, named for the Zeeland province of Holland. Tasman reports two double canoes approach, “paddled at considerable speed” and manned by large, fierce-looking Maoris, each wearing a large white feather in his hair. A small boat is sent out to make friends. One of the canoes rams it, killing the four Dutchmen. The canoe then flees, as does Captain Tasman, who decides “not to linger long on this inhospitable shore.” No explorer returns for nearly two centuries.
Then in 1814, a very brave missionary, Samuel Marsden, brings his faith and vines to be tended by some of those 400,000 Maoris. Against all odds he succeeded.
Now in 1835, in his journey around the world in H.M.S. Beagle, Charles Darwin reports to Northside San Francisco that the native Maoris are taking good care of the vineyards that were established by the British missionaries from Australia.
Northside San Francisco 1910 edition: According to 1895 travelers’ records, the French had come to New Zealand and were producing “a good red wine.” Their vineyards have now disappeared, however, because of a mildew attack on the vines.
Northside San Francisco 1997 edition: New Zealand is now the southernmost serious winemaking region in the world, with enormous, cool-climate, pollution-free potential. The United States is not unaware of all this; our imports this year have shot up 170 percent over 1996. Fasten your seat belts.
The New York Times reports that New Zealand vintages are big in Europe and the United States. It is producing the world’s best Sauvignon Blanc.
Northside San Francisco 2010 edition: New Zealand is growing 13 different varietals. The most popular are Sauvignon Blanc (about 10,000 acres), Chardonnay (about 8,000 acres), and Pinot Noir (about 6,000 acres).
At the Fort, these New Zealand Blancs have all scored very well in their price range:
• Monkey Bay Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2008, $7
• Silver Birch Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2009, $24 (3L)
• St. Clair Cellar (Winesellers) Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2006, $14
• Te Kairanga Winery Sauvignon Blanc 2006, $18
“Marilyn, my Marilyn”
Seating is limited, learning is not
Chiantis and Sangioveses worth collecting
For a long time a bottle of Chianti was better suited to candle-holding than collecting. However, the Italian government changed the rules a few years ago, eliminating the requirement of using some cheap white grapes, permitting adding to the traditional Sangiovese, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, etc., up to 20 percent. The wines proved much better.
At our wine classes at the Fort, we recently tasted “much better” Chiantis including:
Don’t be afraid of the dark
A final wine smile
Credits: Edgar Vogt (Tastings); Ophelia Mercado and Rubella Dequis (Statistics)
Fred McMillin was voted one of the best wine writers in the United States by the Academy of Wine Communications. Phone him with questions at 415-563-5712 or fax him at 415-567-4468.