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Last week I was presented with proof of my theory that the white wine grape of which New Zealanders should be most proud is not Sauvignon Blanc but Chardonnay. For the past two decades the country has seen a tidal wave of Sauvignon Blanc that has drenched even the Australian wine market with what Aussies call a Sauvalanche. Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc may have been a huge commercial success but no one could accuse it of subtlety or longevity.
New Zealand is a genuine New World country because there was hardly any viticulture until pioneers such as Alan Brady, Rolfe Mills and Anne Pinckney began cultivating vines in the 1970s, when nearly all grapes were used for fortified wines. Even then, New Zealand's nascent wine industry did not take off until the 1990s with the explosion of Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. These two grape varieties are still synonymous with New Zealand, but of course, the country also makes great Chardonnay.