The Globe and Mail, Beppi Crosariol - May 16, 2018
"Why New Zealand Wines Are Worth Searching Out
Spellbinding sauvignon blanc secured New Zealand’s place on the world wine map back in the 1980s. But how’s this for irony: The island nation has since gone missing. Nobody can seem to find it, cartographically speaking. Cast your eyes to the south and east of Australia across the Tasman Sea and all you see is crystal-blue Pacific Ocean.
I’m only half-joking. New Zealand’s omission from no shortage of less-than-authoritative world maps has become a source of amusement and frustration to many in the country – the equivalent of a map of Canada without Newfoundland or Prince Edward Island. It’s also the theme of a hilarious short video featuring New Zealand’s awesome Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern. (Yes, I’ll be serving up a wine angle shortly, so bear with me through the political content.)
Produced for Tourism New Zealand, the video went viral earlier this month and stars Kiwi comedian-writer Rhys Darby, best known for playing the band manager in the Flight of the Conchords TV series. In the role of a dim-witted investigator, Darby phones an amused Ardern, who plays herself, promising her he’ll get to the bottom of the mapmaking conspiracy.
“We’re quite a fiddly-looking-shaped country,” he tells her on the phone, “a bit like a half-eaten lamb chop. Perhaps people are just leaving us off thinking we’re a mistake.” Well, that’s his runner-up theory, offered at the end. His main suspicion actually comes with some digging.
Darby pores over the evidence, including maps from Starbucks, IKEA, a Spanish in-flight magazine and an English Rugby World Cup promo, among others. Embarrassingly for Canada, Vancouver makes a cameo as Darby tacks up a real photo on his bulletin board of the giant (and clearly New Zealand-free) metal globe outside the city’s International Village mall.
Finally, Darby turns his suspicions to his country’s constant rival, Australia. A quick internet search reveals that Australian tourist numbers have been on the rise, presumably thanks to New Zealand’s airbrushed disappearance. And, yes, another important sector is under threat. “Our wine!” Darby says to himself while gazing at an abbreviated world wine map. “Sacre Bleu! Sneaky Frenchies.”
He phones in his brainstorm to Ardern, whom he amusingly refers to as “Your Highness.” Australia wants New Zealand’s tourists, he declares. England clearly wants to get rid of the mighty All Blacks rugby team once and for all. “And the wine industry – they can’t beat our pinot or sav!”
The tourism campaign has its own Twitter hashtag: #getnzonthemap, which captures the self-effacing humour so pervasive in that gorgeous, tiny country of 4.7 million. I’m not sure about every point in Darby’s conspiracy theory, but I am certain the French, and most other wine-producing nations, ought to be nervous about the consistent quality of New Zealand wine. It may not yet compete with France or Italy in the high-stakes game of trophy wines or quirky, old-vine curiosities (its industry is mere decades old), but I’d say unequivocally that no country yields more consistent quality from producer to producer and vintage to vintage. Any world wine map that would leave out New Zealand gets a big fail in my geography course.
Mt. Beautiful Pinot Noir 2015, New Zealand
SCORE: 93 PRICE: $37.95
The winery sits in the shadow of its namesake, a peak north of Christchurch in North Canterbury on New Zealand’s South Island. It’s also distinguished for the high intellectual standing of its founder, David Teece, a Kiwi who lives in California, where he is a professor in global business at the University of California, Berkeley. He’s also the author of more than 30 books and was named by international professional-services company Accenture as one of the world’s top-50 business intellectuals. More importantly, he makes superb wine, such as this concentrated, creamy and flawless pinot. Voluptuous for pinot noir, yet remarkably unsweet, it delivers ripe berry fruit infused with hints of coffee, baking spice and cedar. In Burgundy, you’d have to pay $150 for this sort of pleasure. Alas, quantities are extremely limited. Available in select Ontario Vintages stores."